Monday, November 7, 2016

King Lear as an Allegory, Not a Tragedy

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After conferencing with Dr. Burton, I intended to expand on my King Lear essay for my final research paper. In that paper, my thesis statement read as follows: "Despite being disguised in a pagan setting, King Lear should be read as an attempt to replicate the Book of Job in the Bible, as evidenced by numerous parallels in plot, theme, and speech." It worked well, but I had a rather dissatisfying conclusion. My last paper ended with this observation: "Understanding King Lear is based on the Book of Job is important because it shows the undeniable influence of the Bible on Shakespeare’s plays, further cementing the Bible as an invaluable work in literary history." It is very well-documented that the Bible did play a huge role in Shakespeare's works, so my statement is rather unimaginative. 
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Dr. Burton helped me realize that, just like a thesis statement, the suggested literary implications that result from one's claim also need to not be obvious and (maybe?) divide an educated audience. Dr. Burton proposed that a possible implication from my claim is that King Lear should be read as an allegory rather than as a tragedy. This is a very interesting argument because King Lear is one of Shakespeare's most well-known tragedies. I would definitely be arguing against what is generally accepted, making it a good paper topic. So my new thesis statement will end up being something like this: "Although King Lear is traditionally read as a tragedy, it should be read as an allegory because of its similarities with the Book of Job." (I'll keep working on it.)

Some of my research so far:

  • This excerpt from a book has potential as it discusses whether or not King Lear should be read as a Christian allegory or a different kind of allegory.
  • This article from a Catholic website is interesting because it talks about how King Lear is an allegory based on Lear and Cordelia's reconciliation and how it is similar to New Testament doctrine. Maybe it would shape my thesis into including proof from both the Old and New Testaments. 
  • This article by Ian Johnston could be helpful as it has a section devoted to discussing the play as a Christian allegory. However, it seems to be more philosophical than biblical. 
  • I was super happy to find this article by John S. Tanner, current president of BYU-Hawaii. He doesn't expound too much on Lear as his paper is on Job, but it was neat to see he also made the connection. 
  • Garret Fisher suggested on Slack that I could explore the idea of Job maybe not being a factual account and just an allegory. His suggestion could potentially add a very dynamic element to my paper. 
  • Hahahaha from climate change to good vs. evil to daddy issues, this twitter search revealed that people view King Lear as a tragedy for just about everything. Maybe something useful there?

I think there is a lot of potential. I am excited to get going on it.


  1. I really like this idea! Reading your post made me think about the fact that a lot of people read the Book of Job itself as an allegory instead of a true story - does that affect your thinking that perhaps King Lear is an allegory of an allegory?

  2. An allegory of an allegory. Yeah, maybe.