Sound familiar? If you like Shakespeare, you will get it:
King Lear charts the downfall of a man, a family and a nation into chaos. Pomp, hierarchy and state are turned topsy-turvy when the King inhabits a hovel, children rule parents, guests attack their host and Lear’s retinue comprises blind, ‘mad’ and mutilated beggars. ‘Good’ characters are defeated by evil ones and justice appears as illusory as Lear’s mad trial in Act 3.
And unlike most tragedies, in which a sense of new order and confidence is asserted at the end, in King Lear there is little such assurance that the British realm can be restored to its former glory.
The disintegration is initiated by Lear himself in Act 1 Scene 1, when he seeks to divide ‘In three’ his kingdom and ‘part’ his ‘coronet’. Gloucester sums up the opening events of the play with the negative terms ‘banished’ and ‘parted’. However, there appear to be larger social and cosmic forces at work, as Gloucester reports in Act 1 Scene 2:
Let’s leave that act to our Congress.