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Toward Tyranny: Geopolitics and Genre, A Response to Stuart Elden

Fionnuala O’Neill
Law and Literature
Vol. 25, No. 2 (Summer 2013), pp. 166-174
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. on behalf of the Cardozo School of Law
DOI: 10.1525/lal.2013.25.2.166
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Page Count: 9
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Toward Tyranny
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Responding to Stuart Elden’s article “The Geopolitics of King Lear: Territory, Land, Earth,” this article suggests that part of the reason for the comparative lack of critical attention paid to the politics of territory in King Lear is generic. The play has been depoliticized by its inclusion among the tragedies rather than the histories. Seeking to redress this, this response puts King Lear into dialogue with Shakespeare’s earlier histories King John and Richard II, focusing on their geopolitical preoccupation with the relationships among land, sovereign, and polity. Drawing on recent scholarship on the relationship between sovereignty and the law in Richard II, this article suggests that both this play and King Lear respond with anxiety to the contemporary reappropriation of the language of the corpus mysticum into the service of absolute monarchy. They dramatize the threat of national tragedy if freedom of counsel should be silenced by tyranny.

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