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Lord of the Flies and King Lear

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English Speech- By Anna Postema

Authority maintains order in our world, and every day we see figures who possess an insightful understanding of the responsibility to hold authority. Shakespeare’s’ play King Lear, and Golding’s novel Lord of the flies, explore the concept of authority to maintain order in society, whilst, representing insight as a necessity of an authoritative figure.
Shakespeare reveals without the presence of authority, humanity succumbs to chaos. In the opening, King Lear’s authority is immediately established with the use of the imperatives, “attend”, “give, “tell” and “speak”. This affirms King Lear as a powerful figure of authority through his command of language. Upon his relinquishing of power to his daughters the ‘storm and tempest’ begins on stage. This acts as a physical manifestation of Lear’s inner turmoil, and the chaos in the natural order due to the loss of authority. The chaos is further represented on the heath when Lear’s language reminds us of hell, with imagery of, “sulphurous and thought executing fires”. This displays the violence, and break down in refined language, highlighting to us the chaos consuming Lear, and his world. Shakespeare, therefore confirms that without a presence of authority, chaos will descend upon the world.
Shakespeare’s concept of chaos without authority is also explored in Golding’s Lord of the flies. However, Golding suggests that without authority the evil in humanity emerges. Ralph attempts to maintain order on the island, stating “we must have rules and obey them, after all we’re not savages”. This ironically foreshadows the breakdown in order, due to the lack of authority. Golding traces the decent into chaos through the chant, “Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood”. The horrifying chant is accompanied with violent actions that become all-consuming, resulting in the murder of Simon. This disturbing moment reminds the audience of the chaos in humanity that emerges without authority. This chaos is portrayed similarly in King Lear, through the subplots graphic blinding of Gloucester. At the end of Golding’s novel the imagery of the island “scorched up like dead wood” reminds us of the ruin without authority caused by “the darkness of man’s heart”. Therefore, both Shakespeare and Golding demonstrate, without authority there is chaos, Golding, also suggesting that evil emerges without authority.

Shakespeare also explores the responsibility of authoritative figures to possess insight. The conflict of sight and insight is established in the opening scene when Lear states, “Out of my sight” which is countered by Kent who states, “see better”. Through the imagery, we are invited to reflect upon Lear’s lack of insight as an authoritative figure. In act four Lear finally admits, “I am very foolish, fond old man”. The statement’s repetition emphasises the gain of insight, enabled by the journey on the heath. We can also hear echoes of the Fool’s statement in act one, “Thou shouldst not have been old till thou hadst been wise”. The Fool has acted as a dramatic tool to prompt Lear into moments of insightfulness. Therefore, Lear’s echoing of phrasing suggests a gain in insight, brought about by the Fool’s words. In Lear’s final moments Albany gives “this old majesty, to him our absolute power”. Lear’s restoration of power, therefore highlights to us the importance of authority having insight. Shakespeare, thus emphasizes that leaders must acquire true insight to possess authority.
Golding represents Shakespeare’s idea of the importance of insight in an authoritative figure, whilst also exploring the consequences of a lack of insight. Piggy’s insight, represented through his glasses, compliments Ralph’s authoritative character, emphasized to us, through the dialogue as Piggy recognises the conch as “ever so valuable”, Ralph building on the idea by “calling the others” to establish order. This corresponds with the idea explored by Shakespeare when the Fool prompts Lear. Golding, however, also suggests the consequences of no insight. This portrayed through the characterisation of Jack. The shocking description of Piggy, as he “fell forty feet” and “his head opened and turned red”, emphasizes the contrasting savage nature of Jack, and his tribe, therefore suggesting a direct consequence of authority without insight, is ruin. Although, both Golding, and Shakespeare emphasize the importance of an authoritative figure holding insight. Golding, through the central characters, illuminates the consequences of authority without insight.
Therefore, both Shakespeare’s, and Golding’s text’s explore similar ideas of chaos without authority, and the necessity for leaders to possess insight. However Golding also suggests evil emerges without the presence of authority, and explores in detail, the consequences of authority without insight.

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