updated 2 months ago

What is the setting of “King lear?”

Where do the central events unfold? I don’t get it - was it a real place or some imaginary location?

1 Answer
updated 2 months ago

King Lear is a Shakespearean play set in a mythical kingdom in the middle of England. The exact time cannot be established but it predates Christianity in England. It is believed that the events in the story occur around the same time when the mythical king Arthur was ruling over his kingdom in the west coast of Britain. Some scholars believe that Shakespeare set the story in Leicestershire. The events occur in the middle of a very bleak winter. The conditions are the worst that have been recorded to emphasize the suffering the people of Lear have to undergo.

The story is set in castles, which lends the story a sense of order and arrangement, and elegance about the people and place in the narrative. This is however a falsehood as it all goes down the drain when the king retires leaving a power vacuum at the top.

The people in the play abandon their false elegance and resort to their primitive natures when the king retires as each seeks to gain power in the ensuing melee. Regan, the son of the Earl of Gloucester assumes power and command of the Gloucester castle unseats his father. The wrangles threaten to break out into a civil war while at the same time the kingdom is under attack by the French. The dire situation is brought to the fore when we see a homeless old desolate retired King Lear wandering in the open through a violent thunderstorm. This shows the reality of the chaos in the play, as a retired king cannot find a safe place to rest his tired old bones in his own kingdom.