Abstract

The desperate and dispossessed villains of Jacobean tragedy, as Jonathan Dollimore has argued, represent social and ideological forces in Stuart England; their tragic predicaments mediate contemporary dilemmas and anxieties. By representing social relations and political antagonisms onstage as problems of visual control, Jacobean tragedy engages in a radical critique of ideological formations. Taking its cue from Dollimore, this study contends that such ideological relations are presented in Lear as spatial relations, and that at stake in the analysis of ideological formations is scopic authority over bodies and territory, emblematized by the map of state that appears on stage in the first act. In an analysis of the language of discovery—as exposure, visual penetration, uncovering—that permeates Lear, this essay examines the persistent connection of territorial control, as an issue of scopic power, with the hermeneutics of invisibility articulated in the misogynist rhetoric of demonic possession. Such a dialectic of visuality, which thematically structures the play, connects Lear with contemporaneous debates about the status of visuality—debates over demonic possession and territorial representation. By demonstrating that King Lear depicts social alienation and political dissolution as spatial problems, this essay suggests that Shakespeare encodes a radical critique of kingship by representing the stage itself as the site of discovery and critique.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6547
Print ISSN
0013-8304
Pages
pp. 399-426
Launched on MUSE
2003-06-18
Open Access
No
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