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ScholarOne - The Smell of Mortality. Political Succession and Political Afterlife. King Lear's Case.
  • zoltan balazs
zoltan balazs
Corvinus University

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.This paper is a case study of political succession intertwined with the problem of sovereignty. It is widely accepted that Shakespeare’s King Lear was written in a period when old ideas about kingship and country were gradually replaced by modern concepts of sovereignty. However, much less attention has been paid to the interplay between sovereignty and succession. Discussing Lear’s case, an uncanonical interpretation is offered, and that in two senses. First, the prevalent reading of Lear’s decisions as irrational and impulsive is rejected. Second, it is proposed that his decisions are reflective of a political theological dimension. The love test bears a deeper meaning: the idea is based on a theological understanding of the Father-Son relation which suggests that through love a perfect union and identity are possible. Can this idea be made workable in politics? Lear must experience the destruction of his personal-political sovereignty by Cordelia’s ‘nothing.’ He cannot continue reigning any longer because he, and not Cordelia, failed to pass the love test. Yet although he joins her by his suffering and self-emptying, ‘political suffering’ does not promise any political redemption. However, Shakespeare’s drama reveals the possibility of securing succession by forming a new type of sovereignty, modeled according to the theological time of the Son. Lear’s sufferings show him reduced not to nothing but to his bare kingship, to his political essence. In his political afterlife his sufferings make sense in providing his country with a new meaning and freeing it from the burdens of historical-human politics.
11 Oct 2023Submitted to Advance
27 Mar 2024Published in Advance