Discuss the topic nothing in king Lear?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The theme of nothingness is a dominant one in the drama.  Contrast Lear with how he is in the first scene of the play to how he is in the last scene, and one sees how nothingness is more than a theme.  It is a state of being, a form of mental consciousness for Lear.  At the outset of the drama, the pomp and circumstance of his own condition is what confounds him to believe that somehow, all of it is real.  When Cordelia refuses to be a part of this drama of love towards her father, Lear says "Nothing will come of nothing."  This foreshadows what his entire emotional journey, what has to be seen as "renewal," encompasses.  In the storm on the heath, Lear represents this nothingness, shedding all vestiges of his former being, appearing naked emotionally and physically in the condition of a tempest at both his intimate connections with his children and his connection towards how he viewed consciousness.  The laughing at "gilded butterflies" in the final scene of the drama is another instance where the element of nothingness pervades Lear's state of being, revealing him to be an outsider, a distant observer who understands that the true condition of the human being is to lack real power, substantive autonomy, in the face of larger configurations and how human beings function in the modern setting.  It is here where nothingness becomes relevant in the drama, following both Lear and the reader like a shadow until the very end.


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