This Great Stage of Fools
Christian Orthodoxy in Shakespeare’s King Lear
by Peter J. Leithart
Today, King Lear is widely considered Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy and even his greatest achievement. Elements of the play that made it unpalatable to earlier generations are viewed as peculiar strengths by modern critics. Especially in the mid-twentieth century, when absurdist theater was in its heyday, Lear was seen as an important precursor.
Though absurdism now looks positively quaint, critics commonly interpret the world of Lear as if it were Elizabethan absurdist theater. Judah Stampfer concludes that the play is a “tragedy of penance” that takes pl . . .