Hierarchical Society In William Shakespeare's King Lear And Twelfth Night

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Elizabethan England was an exceptionally hierarchical society, where social order and class remained stringent and impermeable. King Lear and Twelfth Night are examples of how William Shakespeare examined these hierarchical boundaries by focusing on the characters who attempt to transgress and subvert the fortified and partisan power structures in their societies. However, as one investigates these social shackles, a ‘social order paradox’ can be found according to Whitney Graham. Graham defines this as, ‘the way in which he effectively critiques and challenges the claim that social hierarchies are inherently rigid, while he, at the same time, simultaneously reinforces and supports these very notions contextually. Thus, though Shakespeare creates worlds in which characters subvert the natural law and order of society, he also reiterates the necessity of these laws for the benefit of a healthy social…show more content…
He associates this with the festivities including Christmas and pre-lent celebrations. It reverses all hierarchical structures and attitudes and turns them on their heads – ‘fools become wise and kings become beggars’ (Selden, 1989, 167). Everything stuck in place, anything impenetrable, is laughed at and abused. In King Lear the role reversal of Lear and the Fool is clear. Lear becomes a vagrant wanderer while his Fool attains knowledge and competence. ‘I am better than thou art now; I am a Fool, thou art nothing’ (1.iv.53). He continuously relishes in his mocking of society, of the disjointed positions and the social shuffling of the cards of class. The Fool essentially subverts the hierarchy found in King Lear making all social structures egalitarian. This unruly clash is the undertone for Lear’s conflict between him and his two
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