Robes and Furred Gowns Hide All: A Study of Social Illusions in King Lear and Brave New World

Robes and Furred Gowns Hide All: A Study of Social Illusions in King Lear and Brave New World

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Social illusion can be defined as a perception, as of visual stimuli that represents what is perceived in a way different from the way it is in reality(online dictionary). Both the play of King Lear by William Shakespeare and the novel of Brave New World by Aldous Huxley compare the two perceptions of social illusion and reality in regards to the ideals induced by society. Both Huxley and Shakespeare attempt to expose the social illusions of their respective times.
In both texts, the authors acknowledge the implicit advantage of birthright in society and the illusion of its role in determining a character. In king Lear those of base birth are considered to be inferior to those born of nobility. Edmund is an obvious victim of this illusion. Where Edmund’s entire identity in society revolves around his ignoble birth. Edmund asks why “should I/ Stand in the plague of custom, and permit/
The curiosity of nations to deprive me/…Why bastard? wherefore base?/... Why brand they us/ With base? with baseness? bastardy? base, base?”(1. 2. 2-11). Since Edmund’s birth is a result of a nuptial breach, society classifies him as a bastard child. And as a result of his birth, Edmund is excluded of the inheritance granted to children of noble birth. Being born within Gloucester’s marital bond makes Edgar a legitimate child, who consistently overshadows his bastard brother Edmund. And since Edgar is Gloucester’s only ‘proper’ son, he receives all the privileges of his father. Although Edmund is in no way physically or mentally lesser than Edgar, stating that “[his] dimensions are as well compact,/[His] mind as generous, and [his] shape as true”(1. 2. 7-8). This diminishing treatment is a cause of an illusion based on the Renaissance time period, wh...


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...erstands the real nature of emotions, freedom, and beauty (Huxley 240). And with his well developed mindset, John may even be superior to the citizens of the World State that are aware of nothing more than the delusions conditioned in them. Thus, both Edmund and John have been categorized as an opposite to their true nature based on their birth’s, due to their societies illusion of morality.
In conclusion, both King Lear and Brave New World make distinctions between the social illusion and reality. The societies of both the novel and the play have the misconception that birth defines a character, which is untrue. Both Edmund and John defy this misconception through their own characters. Shakespeare and Huxley use their texts to bring light to the fact that there is a need to distinguish what is real and what others believe to be real, for the two are very different.

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