Themes and Meanings
Edward Bond has described Lear as “a very grim play.” Its importance, however, does not lie in Lear’s tragic vision but in the story of one man who, against all odds, takes action to change his world. On this journey toward enlightenment, Lear undergoes tremendous suffering. Bond has said that “we develop through our problems, not just solving them, but through clashing with them.” In many of his plays, this friction manifests itself in violence. Some critics have charged that the violence in Lear is excessive and gratuitous. In response, Bond contends that the play accurately reflects the consequences of the abuse of power. His intention in Lear is to show how individual acts of violence and the large-scale violence of wars and power struggles alike reflect the sickness of an unjust society.
This theme is most vividly expressed in Fontanelle’s autopsy. Lear watches the doctor’s exploration of the corpse, asking, “Where is the beast?” He believes that there is a monster inside his daughter that is causing her to act violently. Like Oedipus, Lear begins to see only after his blinding. He realizes that violent impulses do not have their origin within the individual. The wall he was building to prevent others from invading his lands was pointless, then, because it did nothing to solve the basic problems of society.
Similarly, it becomes clear during the play, both to the audience and to Lear, that...
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