Close Reading

- 20min working on dealing with quotes in a meaningful way

“Nor rain, wind, thunder, fire, are my daughters: I tax not you, you elements, with unkindness; I never gave you kingdom, call'd you children, You owe me no subscription: then let fall Your horrible pleasure: here I stand, your slave, A poor, infirm, weak, and despised old man:”

Lear speaks directly to the elements here, suggested by his use of the personal pronoun “you”. This personifies the elements, essentially making them an antagonist to Lear at this point. The fact that Lear suggests that the elements “owe him no subscription” hints towards to the division between humanity and nature - nature owes Lear nothing to the point at which nature is indifferent to man. Finally, Lear ends with imagery of how feeble humanity is. “Poor, infirm, weak, and despised” suggest that man is hardly heroic, and that in the face of the nature, man is particularly insignificant.
The suggestion that nature is indifferent to human actions and that there is no innate connection between humanity and the elements. Ultimately, we are at the mercy of those very elements, insignificant in the universal scheme of things and weak to the progress of the world.

Remembering Nietzsche...

- His belief about the Dionysian vs. the Apollonian

- His belief in tragedy as a core form for expressing this fundamental tension
- His belief that it is both the form and the content of tragedy that make it such a potent force

What I believe...

- That the play can be read as an articulation of Nietzsche’s belief that human nature demands a balance between what he called the Dionysian and the Apollonian - What Shakespeare’s play does, whether he intended it to or not, is to develop an exploration of the consequence of losing that balance - By allowing us to see the disorder that exists as a consequence of a loss of such a balance, the play becomes a reminder of how the Dionysian is reliant on the Apollonian and vice versa

Prove to me that this play can be read as a representation of the Nietzsche’s belief about human nature:
The Argument

What to do with this...

This argument is really valuable when you are doing the ‘relate to society/humanity/the human condition’ part of an essay. By interpreting the play in this way you are easily able to suggest that Shakespeare’s play gets at the heart of what it is to be human (i.e. the human condition). The suggestion is that we are in a constant state of tension between reason and emotion, each relying on each, but ultimately demanding balance in order to exist stably in society.

The tragedy therefore does what it’s supposed to, according to Nietzsche it helps us establish that balance between the Dionysian and the Apollonian, by allowing us to experience both (through characters, plots, events, etc), but provides allows us to do so in a space that is ‘outside’ of society, allowing us to return to society rebalanced.


Focus your responses for these topics on Shakespeare’s use of imagery across the play. You might choose to focus on an examination of a single image, or you could discuss how images work together for a wider effect. 1. To what extent is the concept of power central to King Lear as a whole? 2. Shakespearean dramas are often studies of human frailty. Use King Lear to focus a discussion on the extent to which this is true.

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