"Order from disorder sprung." (Paradise Lost) A [kingdom] without order is a [kingdom] in chaos (Bartelby.com). In Shakespeare's tragic play, King Lear, the audience witnesses to the devastation of a great kingdom. Disorder engulfs the land once Lear transfers his power to his daughters, but as the great American writer, A.C. Bradley said, "The ultimate power in the tragic world is a moral order" (Shakespearean Tragedy). By examining the concept of order versus disorder in the setting, plot, and the character King Lear, Bradley's idea of moral order is clearly demonstrated by the outcome of the play.
"By removing a 'degree' or not acting according to the 'natural' social order, disorder and disharmony in the whole of the universe are inevitable" (Sarah Doncaster). Bradley's idea of moral order is evident from the setting of the play. An excellent example from the play would be that of the storms. By using the technique of pathetic fallacy, Shakespeare creates a storm raging in the sky to reflect the storm raging inside of Lear. Upon the heath, Shakespeare intertwines this idea of disorder in the universe and disorder within Lear. King Lear says,
Rumble they bellyful! Spit, fire! spout, rain!
Nor rain, wind thunder, fire, are my daughter:
I tax you not, you elements, with unkindness;
I never gave you kingdom, call'd you children...
(3, ii, 14-17)
Lear's feelings in this passage parallel the disorder of the storm. To bring order to the universe, Lear must start by bringing order to himself. This occurs when he becomes lawful and puts his daughters on trial. Soon after, Lear says, "When the rain came to wet me once and the wind ...
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... statement because of the "innocent" deaths, it is these innocent deaths which further support the fact that moral order is supreme. The Phrygian Stoic philosopher, Epictetus said it best, "Since it is order which shapes and regulates all other things, it ought not itself to be left in disorder" (Epictetus)
Bradley, A.C. Shakespearean Tragedy. London: Macmillan, 1905
Doe, John. "Open Quote" Bartelby.com http://www.bartleby.com/81/14917.html
Doncaster, Sarah. "Discuss the Representation of Nature in Shakespeare King Lear." Shakespeare Online.
http://www.shakespeare-online.com/essays/learandnature.asp 04 May. 2000
Epictetus. Discourses. Boston: Harvard University Press, 1928
Milton, John. Paradise Lost. Oregon: University of Oregon, 1997
Shakespeare, William. King Lear. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998
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