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Nadiuska Jourdain Subjectivity Paper

King Lear is a tragedy by William Shakespeare. The title character descends into madness after foolishly disposing of his estate between two of his three daughters based on their flattery, bringing tragic consequences for all. (Wikipedia.com) However there is more to the story then just greed, power and lust. Its also about discovering who you are and trying to break out to the mold the society has given you. Throughout the play, Shakespeare brings up questions, are we a product of culture or ourselves? How does our subjectivity shape our decision and how perceive others? One of the main characters, Edmund tries but fails to break out of his subjectivity. As the bastard son of the Earl of Gloucester, his fate was already set from the moment he was born. His character is peeved like most bastards that the world will look down on him simply because he was born out of wedlock. Instead of being resigned to his fate, he tries to change the mold. He views himself above his brother, even above his father. Edmund subjected to being a bastard is so engraved into his mind that he cant think of anything else. As opposed to being focused on his other qualities, he spends all his time questioning why being born a bastard is so wrong. He is so infuriated by his predicament that his greatest desire then becomes the one thing that bastards cannot have, power. He so driven to prove to himself and as I imagine, society that bastards can be someone; that he is willing to betray the brother that he loves and loves him, and send his father to his death. His subjectivity as a bastard defines and in the end destroys him. The truly sad part Edmund is his own worst enemy. Nobody is as hard on him as himself. Although the world will never let himself forget who he is, he will never let go of the name is had been given. The

Nadiuska Jourdain Subjectivity Paper


subjectivity of being bastard has Edmund made apathetic to others and lustful for power. He finds joy in others people pain. Also enjoys manipulating people to get what he wants. For example he flirts with both Goneril and Regan and attempts to play them off against each other. Based on my interpretation of the play, all Edmund ever wanted was to be treated like everyone else. He wanted the opportunity to be someone. And as he the eldest son, wanted to inherit his money. However due to the circumstances of his life, he would never achieve that. I believe that Edmund doesnt really like himself that much. That his play for power was an attempt to make himself feel better. In the end, Shakespeare doesnt allow him to break the mold; to make something of himself. He stays the bastard by Shakespearean definition and also becomes todays definition of the word bastard. King Lear is another character that allows him to be defined at least temperately by his subjectivity. King Lear is well, a King. He sees himself, no more and no less than that. He believes that anyone who is not in the same circle of power as him is beneath him. At the beginning of the play he values appearances above reality. He wants to be treated as a king and to enjoy the title, but he doesnt want to fulfill a kings obligations of governing for the good of his subjects. He essentially wants to have is cake and eat it to. Similarly, his test of his daughters demonstrates that he values a flattering public display of love over real love. He doesnt ask which of you doth love us most, but rather, which of you shall we say doth love us most? And because Cordelia refused to play his game, he throws a tantrum and gives her the boot. His own hubris, as the King allows him to make bad decision that almost nobody will call him out for. Because of his belief in his own self-importance, he wont accept his own failure. Even after he divides his kingdom and he is no longer King, he continues to believe that he can act like it. He still thinks that he is a rocks star and can do whatever he wants with no consequences. When his daughters kick him out, he seems so

Nadiuska Jourdain Subjectivity Paper


flabbergasted of the idea of him no longer being treated with the respect of a King. Then the reader has to read as he goes from the ultimate high to the ultimate low. Although he fully never recovers his sanity, his values and how he views himself in relation to his peers change. There for so does his subjectivity. He realizes his weakness and insignificance in comparison to the overwhelming forces of the natural world; he then becomes a humble and caring individual. He places Cordelia above everything and everyone else. King Lear is essentially a story about what happens when we deviate from the mold that society has made for you. Lear and Edmund are really just products of their time, of their culture. Lear is a King and Edmund is a bastard. Society tells them that they should stay where they are that nothing should change. One has tremendous power and the ability to do whatever they want. The other has no power and cant do anything. Regardless, theyre both uncomfortable with the positions they were born into. And when they try to be something else, cacaos ensues. Lear and Edmund are not just puppets of society, therere more complex than that. However if there were not born a King and bastard, then they wouldnt be who they are and wouldnt make the decisions they did.

Nadiuska Jourdain Subjectivity Paper

Work Cited

1. "King Lear." SparkNotes. SparkNotes, n.d. Web. 16 June 2012. <http://www.sparknotes.com/shakespeare/lear/canalysis.html>. 2. "Edmund (King Lear)." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 06 Dec. 2012. Web. 16 June 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edmund_(King_Lear)>.

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