The Concept of Absolute Monarchy in King Lear by William Shakespeare

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The Concept of Absolute Monarchy in King Lear by William Shakespeare The concept of absolute monarchy comes into existence during the early seventeenth century. For England at this time, the Tudor dynasty ends, while the Stuarts begin theirs. However, it is the latter dynasty that brings the concept into mainstream politics, because “early Stuart political discourse can indeed be read as containing defences of absolutism” (Burgess 19). James I is the first king of the Stuart line and the first to practice absolute monarchy. It is said of him at the time that “James [I] described [sic] his ideal form of government . . . from which he sought [sic] to justify his own absolute authority and power . . . hence he was [sic] to be free and absolute, to be the law in and of his kingdom” (Jordan 15). In coincidence, the beginning of James’ reign coincides within the same time Shakespeare wrote King Lear. In his play, several scenes link together, showing that even though the king supposedly gave up his job, he cannot escape the fact that he is king and will be until his death. These scenes exemplify certain aspects of absolute monarchy. Indeed, the seventeenth century theory of absolute monarchy provides evidence that, although King Lear bestows his role as king to others, he ultimately retains the absolute power and behavior of a monarch in Shakespeare’s famous tragedy. As a result of Lear holding on to his power, in the first scene of the play he does not take off his royal crown. Furthermore, Lear states, “The name, and all th’addition to a king: the sway, / Revenue, execution of the rest, / Beloved sons, be yours; which to confirm, / This coronet part between you” (Shakespeare I. i.136-139). Thus, Lear moves the power f... ... middle of paper ... ... UP, 1996. Foakes, R.A. Introduction. King Lear. By William Shakespeare. Walton-on-Thames, UK: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1997. 1-151. Jordan, Constance. Shakespeare’s Monarchies. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1997. Nelson Greenfield, Thelma. “The Clothing Motif in King Lear.” Shakespeare Quarterly 5 (1954): 281-286. Sommerville, J.P. “Absolutism and Royalism.”. The Cambridge History of Political Thought 1450-1700. Ed. J.H. Burns. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1991. 347-373. Shakespeare, William. King Lear. Ed. R.A. Foakes. Walton-on-Thames, UK: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1997. Tennenhouse, Leonard. Power on Display. New York: Methuen, 1986.

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