How can we describe the situation of 'King Lear' with Transcendentalist ideas?

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

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I think that one can find many examples of themes from the Transcendentalist movement mirrored in Shakespeare's drama.  The idea of self wisdom is of powerful importance in Lear's narrative and this can be seen in a Transcendentalist light.  For Transcendental thinkers, wisdom of self is one of the most important elements in individual consciousness.  The betterment of the self is tied into one's own self awareness.  Lear undergoes this with his tragic predicament.  He understands true devotion and what constitutes true love.  At the same time, he understands his own folly and grasps more of his own true sense of identity.  In moving away from a socially dictated notion of the good, Lear has suffered greatly, but gained wisdom as a part of this.  As he has moved away from socially driven notions of the good, he has echoed another argument that is important for the Transcendentalists, in that individual happiness can only be accomplished when individuals break from conformist social orders.  Lear did, and while his ending is tragic, the Transcendental thinkers would say that he is more content and fulfilled as a human being as a result.

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