Lear on Brexit

Harding - Study for John Bell as King Lear

Meantime we shall express our darker purpose.
Give me the map there. Know that we have divided
In three our kingdom: and ’tis our fast intent
To shake all cares and business from our age;
Conferring them on younger strengths, while we
Unburthen’d crawl toward death.

– King Lear (with thanks to André)

[Image: Nicholas Harding, ‘Study for John Bell as King Lear’, 1998–2001]



  1. Well spotted, Andre. One of the fundamental motif’s in Lear (and WS’ subsequent Jacobean plays) is the question of British identity, in the historical context of the new king James urgently pushing for the union of Scotland and England (in the Elizabethan plays, the issue was Englishness). Check out James Shapiro’s 1606 Shakespeare and the Year of Lear (2015) for an outstanding historical and literary analysis.

    Later on in Act I (Scene 4), after Cordelia’s disinheritance, when the division of three has become two …

    Fool: … Nuncle, give me an egg, and I’ll give thee two crowns.

    Lear: What two crowns shall they be?

    Fool: Why, after I have cut the egg i’ the middle, and eat up the meat, the two crowns of the egg. When thou clovest thy crown i’ the middle, and gavest away both parts, thou borest thine ass on thy back o’er the dirt: thou hadst little wit in thy bald crown when thou gavest thy golden one away. If I speak like myself in this, let him be whipped that first finds it so.


Comments welcome here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.