Problematizing The Notion of Life : Edward Bond’s “Lear” As A Study In Biopolitics And Nihilism
Edward Bond’s ‘Lear’ offers an alternative perspective on a celebrated Shakespearean play as an interaction between the complex mechanisms of social forces and power relations in a highly politicized and contemporary version of “King Lear”. Lear in Bond’s play is essentially a despot. The supreme authority over a people; controlling the forces of life, livelihood and labour. Unlike its Shakespearean counterpart, Bond’s version of the original focuses greatly upon the various social roles that men in a society play and how their relationships with the sovereign and with each-other constitute a pattern in the existing power structures. The precepts of ‘Biopower’ or the power of subjugating bodies and controlling populations and ‘Biopolitics’ or the idea of a political body encompassing the moral and political existence of man into the scope of governance, proposed by Michel Foucault, are of paramount import here. While Foucault is of the opinion that ‘Biopolitics’ is essentially about good governance, Giorgio Agamben disagrees and shows how ‘Biopolitics’ can lead to ‘Thanatopolitics’ or the power of controlling man’s death and hence, life. This article sets out to study “Lear” in the light of the of Biopolitics/Thanatopolitics in Bond’s retelling of the tragedy of King Lear.
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