Ethically attuned readings of King Lear typically study, among other issues, Lear's ethical revolution. More specifically, Shakespeare critics who have engaged with Levinasian treatments of this play often do not present a clear-cut account of Lear's status with regard to the authentic encounter with the destitute yet commanding face of the Other, and the ineluctably intervening third party. Trying to unravel these complexities, I examine one of the possible reasons why ethical readers of King Lear equivocate when they study Lear and his ethical apotheosis. I will discuss Lear's subjectivity and trace its gradual transition to a more heightened ethical awareness, but refuse to envision him as a perfect ethical character. Lear does improve significantly with regard to his relationship with the Other, but while he appears to temporarily touch a Levinasian standpoint, his subjectivity undergoes an apotheosis, eventuating in a deontological (perhaps pre-ontological) status which cannot reconcile itself with the presence of ‘the third party’. This, as I will discuss, is his ethical-political flaw which blocks a final recourse towards a probable reconciliation of the Other and the Third. Lear's ethical awakening, I suggest, fails to reconcile with and restore justice.
Mehrdad Bidgoli is a PhD candidate in the Department of English Literature, Faculty of Foreign Languages, University of Isfahan, Iran. His research usually focuses on philosophy and literature, with a special emphasis on William Shakespeare and Emmanuel Levinas. He has published essays on Shakespeare and Levinas, and explores the ways in which literature can be read through philosophy and how philosophy utilises/expands literature. Recent publications include ‘A Struggle with Alterity: A Levinasian Reading of Macbeth’ (arcadia), ‘Comedy and Humor: An Ethical Perspective’ (European Journal of Humour Research) and ‘Ethical Comicality and the Fool: An Essay on King Lear’ (Comedy Studies).