Here's a few thoughts about Lear's universality, with contemporary relevance to audience, then and now:
1. Universally, political power corrupts, the Ozymandeus complex: a) then, the king becomes increasingly egotistical and headstrong; b) now, our presidents and premiers also get egotistical and arbitrary.
2. Universally, flatterers and yes-men around the leader result in bad decisions: a) then, the king is intollerant of truth and correction, and repeats or increases indiscretions; b) now, political leaders demand loyalty and support in back-room closed meetings and from department heads, react harshly to critics.
3. Universally, when the mighty fall, few supporters remain true: a) then, the out of favor tend to have heads chopped off by successors; b) now, the losers leave or are humiliated, often become whistle blowers or loose canons, write books about how they had more friends on the way up than down, etc..
4. Universally, fathers in a patriarchy tend to favor one child and expect to be honored: a) then, daughters depended on fathers' beneficence and were dutiful--or else; b) now, fathers still dote on daughters, as mothers on sons, but little may be arranged for them.
5. Universally, someone reduced from high influence and status has identity problems of an ego type, like The Lion in Winter: a) then, they had an idea of old age as becoming increasingly child-like; b) now, we say people shouldn't retire early, for reasons of continued health and satisfying work ethic.
6. Universally, when things go bad, the patient person can be stoic and religious, wait it out until balance reasserts and good times return: a) then, they had a pretty good idea that the circle of fate could go bad on you, then the bottom might really fall out and you find yourself living in a "wasteland"; b) now, people are examining how to cope with existence in personally meaningful ways, in all circumstances.
7. Universally, when a leader gets a group together for collective strength and sustained order, that alliance should continue to be improved and extended, like Roman Civilization: a) then, England was just starting to get its British Empire together in the Age of Adventure and was adding Ireland, Scotland, Whales, etc.; b) now, companies strive for monopoly, but are controlled by laws of trade, world opinion againts hegemony, national interests for protective trade. (In Lear, it's unusual to see a successful, good king step aside so his kindom would be divided up and ruled by spoiled daughters.)
8. Universally, when someone is isolated and disoriented by mistreatment and environment, the person breaks down: a) then, forms of torture were known to cause minds to change, although they seem to have the idea that one's true nature would out; b) now, we know much more about deliberate ways to change behavior through conditioning, although physical and mental torture, disorientation, fear, and subversion are still used; probably we have few illusions about man's finer nature.
9. Universally, when society becomes corrupt and decadent, as Gibbon shows, certain characteristic behaviors are manifest: a) then,criminal and sexual libertinism, interpersonal and group vendettas, wars, religious intollerance, civil disobedience, Machiavellianism, bread and circus, etc.; b) now, same sort of thing, as some historians equate culture and civilization with decadence.
10. Universally, it's tragic when a hero falls because of a character flaw and lack of self-knowledge: a) then, the hero was an exceptional person of noble lineage, probably a man, strong, wise, and pius; b) now, the hero may be a common man, everyman, or someone who believes he has the human talents that replace God, like a mafia boss, billionare, sports star, philosopher, etc..
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