King Lear

The Significance of Wandering and Return in Shakespeare's "King Lear"

In his study Shakespeare: Time and Conscience, Grigori Kozintsev expresses how the plot of King Lear sets in motion “an unstoppable avalanche of the fragments of structures, attitudes, ties, all intermingled in frenzied movement”. Indeed, Shakespeare’s “great” tragedy is a play of extremes, with its presentation of intolerable suffering and devastating conclusion almost rendering the play unfathomable. Yet it remains possible to discern the thematic structure of wandering and return, largely through the physical and mental journey of King Lear, coupled with Shakespeare’s use of the recurring metaphors of sight, perception and blindness. Moreover, the indiscriminate ruthlessness of the forces of nature within the play raises pertinent questions about whether a true return, or "nostos", can ever be achieved in the harsh and unforgiving world that Shakespeare evokes.

First and foremost, Shakespeare’s play explores the physical wanderings of its protagonist, marking the tumultuous journey from Lear’s palace to Dover through an unforgiving storm. As a consequence of their respective self-centredness and naivety, both King Lear and the Earl of Gloucester fall from a state of prosperity and comfort, causing them to flee from...

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