How is Edward Bond's Lear a modern drama?

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

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I think that Bond's work can be seen as modern in a couple of ways.  The first would be that it is reflective of the lack of redemption that is a part of modern works.  Unless Shakespeare, Bond does not give a vision of hope and glimmer of redemption that enables the audience to feel that some type of unity is possible.  Bond interprets the fragmentation of the family and the poor father that Lear is as the root of his daughter's problems.  In Shakespeare, Cordelia is the hope, the moral compass by which all others are saved.  Yet, in Bond's work, Cordelia has taken the form around her.  The lack of emotional affect that her father displayed has only been coupled with her husband's death, her own rape, and the brutal way in which she rules.  In this, Bond makes the argument that the modern setting is defined by individuals who absorb the intense pain that is inflicted upon them.  Bond's work is modern because of this element.  The redemption that is present is not on the stage or in the pages of the text.  It is screaming out a lesson that must be absorbed by the audience, convinced that the emotional dynamic within our state of being is not a healthy one.  In this, there is a great deal of modernity present.  The context in which Bond writes and constructs his drama is extremely modern.  Consider what he writes in the Preface to the drama:

We can see that most men are spending their lives doing things for which they are not biologically designed. We are not designed for our production lines, housing blocks, even cars; and these things are not designed for us.

The disconnect between what "design" was intended and what it actually is represents something brought out in the drama.  Cordelia and her sisters were not "designed" to be as savage as they became.  The construction of political rule was not meant to be as intensely brutal as it is conceived.  In this, there is a modern implication in that who we are now and the lives we lead are far off from their original design.  In this, Bond might be the logical extension of what Shakespeare intimated through his work.


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