“Order from disorder sprung.” (Paradise Lost) A [kingdom] without order is a [kingdom] in chaos (Bartelby.com). In Shakespeare’s tragic play, King Lear, the audience witnesses to the devastation of a great kingdom. Disorder engulfs the land once Lear transfers his power to his daughters, but as the great American writer, A.C. Bradley said, “The ultimate power in the tragic world is a moral order” (Shakespearean Tragedy). By examining the concept of order versus disorder in the setting, plot, and the character King Lear, Bradley’s idea of moral order is clearly demonstrated by the outcome of the play.
“By removing a ‘degree’ or not acting according to the ‘natural’ social order, disorder and disharmony in the whole of the universe are inevitable” (Sarah Doncaster). Bradley’s idea of moral order is evident from the setting of the play. An excellent example from the play would be that of the storms. By using the technique of pathetic fallacy, Shakespeare creates a storm raging in the sky to reflect the storm raging inside of Lear. Upon the heath, Shakespeare intertwines this idea of disorder in the universe and disorder within Lear. King Lear says,
Rumble they bellyful! Spit, fire! spout, rain!
Nor rain, wind thunder, fire, are my daughter:
I tax you not, you elements, with unkindness;
I never gave you kingdom, call’d you children…
(3, ii, 14-17)
Lear’s feelings in this passage parallel the disorder of the storm. To bring order to the universe, Lear must start by bringing order to himself. This occurs when he becomes lawful and puts his daughters on trial. Soon after, Lear says, “When the rain came to wet me once and the wind …
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… statement because of the “innocent” deaths, it is these innocent deaths which further support the fact that moral order is supreme. The Phrygian Stoic philosopher, Epictetus said it best, “Since it is order which shapes and regulates all other things, it ought not itself to be left in disorder” (Epictetus)
Bradley, A.C. Shakespearean Tragedy. London: Macmillan, 1905
Doe, John. “Open Quote” Bartelby.com http://www.bartleby.com/81/14917.html
Doncaster, Sarah. “Discuss the Representation of Nature in Shakespeare King Lear.” Shakespeare Online.
http://www.shakespeare-online.com/essays/learandnature.asp 04 May. 2000
Epictetus. Discourses. Boston: Harvard University Press, 1928
Milton, John. Paradise Lost. Oregon: University of Oregon, 1997
Shakespeare, William. King Lear. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998
Mary, Eve, and Lilith in Shakespeare’s King Lear, Othello, and Macbeth
Mary, Eve, and Lilith in King Lear, Othello, and Macbeth
Feminist criticism often explores the symbolic or archetypal use of the Biblical figures of Mary and Eve in literary criticism. One figure which seems appropriate to such discussions, but so far neglected it seems, is the figure of Lilith. Indeed, in the case of Shakespearean criticism, Lilith seems an appropriate model at times for such characters as Goneril, Regan, Lady Macbeth, and so forth. Accordingly, it is my intention to explore this lost archetype and relate it to three of Shakespeare’s tragedies: King Lear, Othello, and Macbeth.
To begin, Lilith is an enigma in many circles, with varying tales and legends ascribed to her. In certain aspects of Jewish folklore, Lilith is believed to have been the original wife of Adam who was exiled from Eden and replaced with the better known Eve because she refused to submit to Adam’s male authority (Grolier “Lilith”).
According to one version, she slept with Adam after the Fall and birthed evil spirits and also supposedly the devil and birthed the jinn (Arabic demons of legend, sometimes ascribed as being genies). Later in legend, she became identified as a succubus who caused “nocturnal emissions [associated with “wet dreams in men”] and the birth of witches and demons called lilim.” Charms were created to protect from her influence and she was believed to have stolen and slain children (Grolier “Lilith”).
She is mentioned in the Talmud in several places. Among these references include:
Rabbi Jerimia ben Eleazar further stated: “In those years, after his
expulsion from the Garden of Eden, in which Adam…,was under the
ban, he begot ghosts and male demons and fema…
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… Rev. ed. Baltimore: Penguin, 1969. 1021-1057.
Smith, Jeffrey. “Lilit, Malkah ha-Shadia.” Babalon-1. Online. Internet. 25 Apr. 1996. Available Address: http://lark.cc.ukans.edu/~rrosen/lilith/lilit.html [Link no longer active]
“The Story of Lilith.” Alphabet of Ben Sira 23A-B. Ed. Michael Abrahams. Online. Internet. 25 Apr. 1996. Available Address: http://www.ed.ac.uk/~p92002/lilith.html [Link no longer active]
Vanita, Ruth. “‘Proper’ men and ‘fallen’ women: the unprotectedness of wives in ‘Othello.'” Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 Spring 1994: 341-356. InfoTrac EF Expanded Academic ASAP 1993-April 1996. CD-ROM. Information Access. April 1996.
Zender, Karl F. “The humiliation of Iago.” Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 Spring 1994: 323-339. InfoTrac EF Expanded Academic ASAP 1993-April 1996. CD-ROM. Information Access. April 1996.