‘Is man no more than this?’. King Lear and the Collapse of Civilisation. The collapse of civilisation. Freud: Civilization and its Discontents (1930) . According to Freud, man is ‘a savage beast to whom consideration towards his own kind is something alien’ (1962: 59).
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King Lear and the Collapse of Civilisation
LEAR. Allow not nature more than nature needs,Man’s life is cheap as beast’s. (2.2.425-6)
LEAR. Is man no more but this? Consider him well. Thou owest the worm no silk, the beast no hide, the sheep no wool, the cat no perfume. Here’s three on ’s are sophisticated; thou art the thing itself. Unaccommodated man is no more but such a poor, bare, forked animal as thou art. (3.4.93-8)
LEAR. Who wouldst thou serve?
LEAR.Dost thou know me, fellow?
KENT. No, sir, but you have that in your countenance which I would fain call master.
LEAR. What’s that?
KENT. Authority. (1.4.23-9)
GONERIL. Idle old man,That still would manage those authoritiesThat he hath given away! (1.3.16-18)
LEAR. … Only we still retainThe name and all the additions to a king.The sway, revenue, execution of the rest,Beloved sons, be yours; which to confirm,This crownet part betwixt you. (1.1.127-31)
LEAR. Doth any here know me? Why, this is not Lear.Doth Lear walk thus, speak thus? Where are his eyes?Either his notion weakens, or his discerningsAre lethargied. Sleeping or waking, ha? Sure, ’tis not so.Who is it that can tell me who I am?Lear’s shadow? I would learn that, for by the marks Of sovereignty, knowledge, and reasonI should be false persuaded I had daughters. (1.4.220-8)
LEAR. Hark, nature, hear: Dear goddess, suspend thy purpose if Thou didst intend to make this creature fruitful.Into her womb convey sterility.Dry up in her the organs of increase,And from her derogate body never springA babe to honour her. (1.4.268-74)
REGAN. I pray you, father, being weak, seem so. (2.2.359)
LEAR. I will have such revenges on you bothThat all the world shall – I will do such things – What they are, yet I know not; but they shall beThe terrors of the earth. (2.2.438-41)
LEAR. See how yon justice rails upon yon simple thief. Hark in thine ear: change places, and handy-dandy, which is the justice, which is the thief? Thou hast seen a farmer’s dog bark at a beggar?
GLOUCESTER. Ay, sir.
LEAR. An the creature run from the cur, there thou mightst behold the great image of authority. A dog’s obeyed in office. (Folio 4.5.147-55)
‘played before the King’s Majesty at Whitehall upon St. Stephen’s night in Christmas Holidays, by his Majesty’s Servants playing usually at the Globe on the Bankside.’
KENT. This is not altogether fool, my lord.
FOOL. No, faith; lords and great men will not let me. If I had a monopoly out, they would have part on’t, and ladies too, they will not let me have all fool to myself – they’ll be snatching. (1.4.146-50)
LEAR. No, they cannot touch me for coining. I am the King himself. (4.5.83-4)
FOOL. Can you make no use of nothing, uncle?
LEAR. Why no, boy. Nothing can be made out of nothing.
FOOL. (to Kent) Prithee, tell him so much the rent of his land comes to. He will not believe a fool.
LEAR. A bitter fool.
FOOL. Dost thou know the difference, my boy, between a bitter fool and a sweet fool?
LEAR. No, lad. Teach me.
FOOL. (sings) That lord that counsell’d theeTo give away thy land,Come, place him here by me;Do thou for him stand.The sweet and bitter foolWill presently appear,The one in motley here,The other found out there.
LEAR. Dost thou call me fool, boy?
FOOL. All thy other titles thou hast given away. (1.4.126-44)
LEAR. When we are born, we cry that we are comeTo this great stage of fools. (4.5.171-2)
LEAR. …I am e’enThe natural fool of fortune. (4.5.178-9)
LEAR. Poor naked wretches, whereso’er you are,That bide the pelting of this pitiless night,How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides,Your looped and windowed raggedness, defend youFrom seasons such as these? O, I have ta’enToo little care of this. (3.4.25-30)