What is the meaning of life in reference to King Lear and Waiting for Godot?
These texts have many themes but, when comparing them, is there a link between the texts and the meaning of life when factoring in existentialism?
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While it is fairly clear that in Godot Beckett is dealing with a universal existentialism (is there a plan to which all our actions answer, or is the world meaningless except for choices made or not made?) and while it is clear that Shakespeare was dealing with questions on the earth-plane, an interesting way to compare the two themes is by looking at kingship (sovereignty) as the universal shape. Lear is a play that questions the meaning of kingship—whether the citizens are conforming to the rule of the king, or whether their own choices determine the nature of the kingship. On this level, the famous line, “Nothing will come of nothing” takes on a new significance. While Lear is asking his daughters to declare their love, in a dramatic sense, he is asking his people to declare their love and loyalty to one sister or another, especially since after his retirement the kingdom will take on a different personality, based on which sister (and her spouse) reigns. The themes of madness and the Fool, represented by the characters, and even the theme of friendship/loyalty, are all encapsulated in the question of whether a kingdom is designed by a king, or whether the inhabitants’ choices shape the kingship. Both plays deal with choices—do we really choose, or are our “choices” artificial steps in a predetermined plan? It should be noted, too, that the Elizabethan view of kingship is that of Divine Right, which precludes human choice. Lear’s real flaw, in this dramatization, is thinking that he can choose, instead of following Divine Will (all scholars point out that he cannot step down from kingship—that is against the “order” of this world); he must remain as king until death, just as Gogo and Didi must wait for Godot despite their desire to “go.”
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