King Lear Stoicism Analysis

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To counter stoicism, the play presents itself first as a stoic world. Frye indicates in his essay that Albany and Edgar stands for the moralist (111); and Moretti in “Great Eclipse” argues that King Lear is in-between an old feudalist society and a new absolutist society. However, these characters does not stand for a vague, universal ethics; and feudalism, as a political concept, must have a reciprocal relationship with cultural doctrine as to integrate the social and the political. I suggest that stoicism, with its concrete pedagogy, makes the abstract concept of ethics and politics into practice. We cannot assert that Renaissance England is purely of stoicism for the Christianity also renders its influence, however, the stoicism
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First, on the topic of love: Lear’s ignorance of himself results to the tragedy; both Harold Bloom and Stanley Cavell have argued that because of his love to Cordelia, whether an overflowing or avoiding kind, that he fails to keep himself upright. Whether it is a kind of love of overwhelming affection Cavell suggests, or the general love Bloom refers to, what matters is that he lacks self-knowledge of his own love. Epictetus, the stoic, has a moral story about the consequence of it, which is mentioned in Foucault’s lecture: there is a father runs away from his ill daughter because he is too upset by the condition of his daughter that he cannot bear the sight of her illness. Epictetus criticizes this attitude because the father forgets to follow the nature of family bond, but has too much affection towards his daughter as to forget recognizing himself as a father in the social frame. In Lear’s case, plot goes another way but much the same in depth: Lear is upset by Cordelia for he cannot bear her silence and rudeness; her refusal to express love in public hurts him. Cavell illustrates the twisted logic of Lear: his private love yields to public hatred. And this time the father expels the daughter so as to avoid her. Lear’s excessive affection leads to improper love and hate overlooking the social order. Epictetus had said, if one pay enough attention to what one …show more content…
“Care of the self” in stoicism is the first step towards caring others. Because, as abovementioned, in caring of oneself correctly one can know how to care and treat others properly. This principle can apply to the state, which contains the largest amount of others (Foucault 199). This principle constructs the basis of feudalism: one must know his nature and act accordingly; in the position of the king, then one should care the state. In the first scene we can see how Lear violates the principle: he succumbs to flattery. Here Foucault introduces two stoic concepts, anger and flattery, to illustrate the structure of power relation: the discussion of anger, in the context of Seneca and Plutarch, is about the superiority’s abuse of power to its inferior: father to his wife, children, and slaves; the Prince to his subjects. One’s anger means his uncontrollability of oneself, in case of authority, it means he fails to care himself and consequently exercise his power improperly (Foucault 374). Flattery, on the other hand, is the technique of the inferior: the flatterer gives false image to the superior as to take advantage of the power of the superior; the superior in this condition cannot recognize himself correctly (376). The discourses on anger, Foucault indicates, are originally the reaction to the political structural change of Rome from

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