King Lear and The Idiot

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Arts and Humanities | Classics | English Language and Literature | European Languages and Societies


Scott Richardson, Modern and Classical Languages


One upon a time in England there was a king who had three daughters... Once upon a time in Russia there was a prince who set out to save a troubled woman...

Indeed, both Shakespeare's King Learand Dostoevsky's The Idiot have a fairy tale feel about them - at least at the beginning. Some have even noted about King Lear that it might very well have made a nice comedy. I think the same for The Idiot (though it is less likely Dostoevsky would have written one). Yet both authors wove their tales in a much darker direction, making them tales of psychological and physical suffering, madness, blindness (both spiritual and physical), botched suicide, and the finality of death. But all tragedy centers on dark themes and images. What is it specifically about these that makes them unique and at the same time akin to each other?