The impeccable style and craft of Shakespeare’s writing has always been looked upon with great respect, and it continues to serve as an inspiration to writers and thinkers today even as it did when it was being first performed in London. Shakespeare’s modern audience, however, is far less diverse than the one for which he originally wrote. Due to the antiquity of his language, Shakespeare’s modern readership consists mostly of students and intellectuals, whereas in Shakespeare’s own time, his plays were performed in playhouses packed with everyone from royalty to peasants. Because of this, Shakespeare was forced to write on many different levels, the most sophisticated of which appealed to his more elite audience members, while the more straightforward and often more crude of which appealed to his less educated viewers, and the most universal of which still appeals to us.
In act 3, scene 4 of King Lear, Shakespeare demonstrates the multi-layered quality of his writing in the conversations that takes place between King Lear, The Fool, Edgar and Kent. Shakespeare uses the language of Edgar, which is witty, crude, and a little bit shocking, in order to appeal to his lower class audience. However, at the same time, Shakespeare uses the entire scene to draw an extended metaphor between the inner turmoil of King Lear’s life, and the outer turmoil of the storm, a more subtle literary element that would have appealed to a person with a better education. In line 69-74, Shakespeare seamlessly integrates the two levels of entertainment:
“Edgar: Pillicock sat on Pillicock hill. Halloo, halloo, loo, loo!
Fool: This night will turn us all to fools and madmen.
Edgar: Take heed o’ the foul fiend; obey thy p...
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...ct between Regan and Goneril on the one side and Cordelia on the other is a situation of trust and betrayal that appeals to the most basic of human feelings. These portrayals of fundamental human conflicts; trust and betrayal, good and evil, logical and insane, as they are shown in King Lear appeal as much to human minds of all levels of education today as the did in Elizabethan England.
Shakespeare’s original audiences appreciated his work on all of its different levels, something that is almost impossible today for all but the most dedicated Shakespearean scholars. However, there is something that resonates equally with today’s audiences as with the audiences of Elizabethan times, and that is the effortlessly accurate portrayal of humanity that Shakespeare achieves through some of the most beautifully crafted literature in the history of the English language.
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