When God's Not in the Quarrel: The Negative Irony in Lear's Politics of the Common
William Shakespeare’s King Lear illustrates the importance of Christian ideals in Early Modern England by portraying a pagan kingdom in which those ideals do not exist. Heavily influenced by Christian scriptures (notably the Book of Acts), Shakespeare’s first audiences understood King Lear as an exploration of a godless world which must eventually become dysfunctional. The play can be approached as a study in “negative irony,” the device through which something (in this case, Christian morality) is celebrated through a portrayal of its antithesis (Hunt 30). The system of communal living, common ownership, and personal com-monality described in Acts is not something that Shakespeare portrays as tenable in a non-Christian context. Through this lens, we see that King Lear juxtaposes the highly religious culture of Early Modern England with the imagined tragedy of a culture devoid of the same religion.
Copyright (c) 2022 Grace Derksen
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Spectrum encourages authors to publish their work under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence (CC BY 4.0) that allows others to distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon the work, even commercially, as long as they credit the Author(s) for the original creation. Authors may, however, choose to have their work distributed under any of the Creative Commons licenses currently available by specifying their preferred licence in the publication agreement. The applicable Creative Commons license icon will appear on the title page of each published submission. A description of the Creative Commons licences is available here: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/