Why Redistribute? The Jacobean Union Issue and King Lear

Marie O'Connor


King James VI and I’s attempt to unite Scotland and England from roughly 1603-1608, though ultimately unsuccessful, is striking in how it encouraged fundamental reconsideration of what constitutes the political and economic community and how relationships should be structured within it. My essay aims to show how Shakespeare’s King Lear may be seen as engaging with Union discourse and especially with pro-Union writings in which some of the more far-reaching and transformative ideas were taking shape about what “Britain” might become as a social, economic, and political community. Specifically, the essay argues for a relationship between Lear’s and Gloucester’s famous language on redistribution in King Lear and what the essay seeks to show was a vibrant discourse about economic redistribution that emerged during the Union issue.


Shakespeare, Union Issue, Britain, Political and Economic Thought

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