Setting and Location in King Lear

Where/when is King Lear set? – Ancient Britain, several centuries before the arrival of Christianity
Historians view? Pre-Christian Britain had been a single United Kingdom into Britain/Scotland
What did James I want to do? James I wanted to unite Britain and Scotland but this was vigorously opposed. – When the play was performed at James’ court, the King would have been pleased to see that the decision to separate the kingdom of Britain ends in disaster
Playwrights? At the time, playwrights could be imprisoned for writing anything too political.- By setting the play in the past, Shakespeare freed himself to tackle this topic
Without its pre-Christian setting, the nihilistic and despairing tone might have been unacceptable to Shakespeare’s audience
Christianity in Shakespeare’s England – The state religion- Life was meaningful because it was an opportunity to save God- to publicly express the belief that life is meaningless would have turned away a vast majority of Shakespeare’s audience
Pagan gods Characters talk about pagan gods instead of the Christian “God”- Characters can openly express the view that life is meaningless but cruel- The pre-Christian setting allows Shakespeare to present a bleak vision of a world devoid of meaning while avoiding religious offence
Setting – First half of play takes place in the safe and comfortable palaces- As the play progresses, an increasing number of its scenes take place in dirty and unsafe surroundings- Heath in a violent storm
What does the change in setting represent?? – Shift from safe, interior spaces to threatening outdoor locations reflects Lear’s gradual loss of wealth and status.It reminds the audience that shelter and security are privileges one can lose- When Lear gives up his power, he was certain that he would spend the rest of his life in comfort- It’s all to easy for people to lose everything

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