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The Journal of English Language and Literature , Vol.65, No.3, 507 ~ 523, 2019
A Death That Lingers. A Death That Is Not Annihilation: A Comparative Reading of Shakespeare’s Hamlet and King Lear from the Perspective of Emmanuel Levinas
Seogkwang Lee
This essay analyses William Shakespeare’s works, Hamlet and King Lear, in view of Levinas’s philosophies on death in order to precipitate further insight into the playwright’s meditations on death. A particular attention in each play is paid on Hamlet’s gradual shift in understanding of the nature of death and awareness of what occurs in the complex fluctuation of death occurring before dying and in dying particularly in his encounter with death in the graveyard where he notices that death is hanging around, not remote but looming, and its advent is something beyond his control; also on the theatrical effects of scenes in King Lear regarding Gloucester’s suicidal act not entirely mocked by his son, Edgar but led to a will to live, and Lear’s demise holding the death of his beloved but misjudged daughter, Cordelia where audience’s look on death is shifting towards the theatrical multidimensional view. In doing so, this paper reveals a consideration of death as lingering, looming and uncontrollable. To the audience, death is something that already has happened and become impersonal and general. What is more, death continues as life goes on; death and life seen as relational. Shakespeare claims in this regard, “readiness is all”(5.2.160). This view demands the reader to review the aspect death as such to become compassionate and to see boundary between life and death blurred. Such death is seen to exist near at hand and is not empty, for within it, the self continues rather than being annihilated.
Key Words
Readiness, Death, Lingering, Annihilation, Moral
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