• What would Shakespeare do, confronted by, as Erich Heller once put it in another context, ‘the amazing scene upon which we now move in sad, pathetic, heroic, stoic, or ludicrous bewilderment’?
    • Well, how do the plays themselves present power and protest?
    • King Lear is a play about a king who loses all of his power, and learns to feel what it is like to be a beggar. More than that: it is a play in which a group of rich and powerful men are wrenched from the corridors of power, dressed in rags, and forced to live outside in the cold. All of these men individually, enduring what they do, come to a new understanding of power, of justice, and of the plight of the poor.
    • Lear’s new understanding of the plight of the poor is moving in itself, but what makes the prayer so extraordinary is that it ends, not with a simple call for compassion, but rather with a demand for economic change, for the ‘superflux’ (i.e. private capital) to be spread around more fairly. The problem of the poor is the problem of the social system itself, and it is the latter that needs to be re-thought and re-constituted.
    • Just as Lear wishes for the powerful to ‘feel what wretches feel’, so too Gloucester wants them to experience hardship, in order that they might learn compassion. On top of this, once again, an urgent economic demand is presented: private capital should be redistributed, so as to ‘undo excess’ and allow everyone their fair share.


      These are just two central examples of an intense focus – on class politics, economic justice and human solidarity – that runs through the entire play.

    • Shakespeare’s claim, in King Lear, is that, until systemic injustices are eradicated, no other sort of justice is possible.
    • The Occupy movement would strengthen itself if it realised that its concerns were shared by Shakespeare (along with many other great artists and philosophers of the tradition), and if it looked for ways of using this state of affairs to its advantage. Public readings of Shakespeare plays could be organised within Occupy camps, for example, and protestors could make contact with people at theatres, and at Shakespearean institutions, to see if links could be forged.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.