Orientalism: Is Wakanda a Rogue State?

The MCU’s Black Panther dazzles moviegoers with its representation of a technologically advanced African power, but to what extent does it’s foreign novelty cover up its admittedly brutal nature.

The plot of the movie (Spoilers ahead) centers around the benevolent and super-powered king Tchalla of Wakanda as his throne is usurped by the cruel and malevolent Killmonger, who seeks to use Wakanda’s weapons to overthrow the world order. The central conflict and setting provide some interesting set pieces for fun superhero action, but it also begs the question: Is Wakanda an African North Korea?

Both countries are poor isolated nations with xenophobic streaks and hereditary monarchs which wield absolute power and supposedly have supernatural abilities. Everybody’s favorite ‘Glorious Jucheist Republic of Korea’ is also technologically advanced, at least according to government officials.

Killmonger is doubtlessly evil and vindictive, yet the reason that he poses such a threat is because in Wakanda democracy is tossed out in favor of trial by combat. Killmonger even finds allies in Wakanda nationalists who believe in militaristic interventionism not-at-all dissimilar to Kim Jung Il’s communist revolutionary network.

Why does Wakanda get off the hook? (Other than the fact that Black Panther is a superhero film)

One possible reason is that Wakanda’s existence is steeped in orientalism, or stereotypes about non-western countries. The music playing in the Wakandan setting is literally called “(Tribal music playing)” in the subtitles for Avengers: Infinity War.

The trial-by-combat that decides the Wakandan dictator is not portrayed as a gross betrayal of popular sovereignty but instead as a “Noble commitment to honorable traditions”. With enough bone necklaces and Nigerian accents even the most archaic government can become a proud tradition.

In a cinematic universe filled with realistic national governments led by pragmatic and greedy leaders, the African one (Wakanda) gets to be treated like some fantasy kingdom such as Camelot or Andor. (Which to be fair it mostly is)

Of course, this is an over analysis of what is supposed to be a fun movie, so take this with a grain of salt.

What do you think?

The Orientalist Book of Boba Fett

Disney Plus released the first episode of its new series, The Book of Boba Fett, on December 29, 2021. In the series, the crime lord and previous bounty hunter Boba Fett take over the desert land of Tatooine and try to make a name for themselves as its new rulers. The planet of Tatooine denotes a representation of the Middle East as seen in western culture. The desert planet has cities and towns of crime, ruled by crime lords and dictators, and much of the planet is populated by the poor and lower-class laborers. The entire series plays on the stereotypes of orientalism and Middle Eastern culture. 

In his book, Orientalism, Said noted that Orientals were viewed as impossible to trust and strange by definition. One of the native species of Tatooine is the Jawas, who are strange, hooded beings that steal and raid scrap and junk from villages. These characters are developed around the theme of Orientalism and the idea of desert-men as being despicable and less human. They speak a language that the viewers of the show cannot understand, pushing the idea that they lack intelligence and human resemblance. 

In The Book of Boba Fett, the previous ruler Jabba the Hutt would be moved by servants as they carried him. In the second episode of the series, Boba Fett is offered to be transported just as his predecessor had. Boba Fett outwardly rejects this idea, criticizing it as being disrespectful and ostentatious. This scene relates to the theme of Orientalism in the show as it portrays the native ruler, Jabba the Hutt, to be cruel whereas the English-speaking new ruler, Boba Fett, is more merciful and liked. 

Orientalism in Aladdin

Aladdin, a Disney princess movie directed to an audience of children, depicts the Middle East as a foreign land that is mysterious and dangerous. It is supposed to be seen as vastly different than the western culture. The film purposely exaggerates the differences between cultures to provide entertainment- despite the fact that it exaggerates stereotypes and minimizes the culture to one small example.

The opening scene has racist lyrics, “Where they cut off your ear/ If they don’t like your face/ It’s barbaric but hey, it’s home.”

This movie and these lyrics promote stereotypes of Arab individuals. This leads to the feelings of no accurate representation in media that Edward Saed had felt. These depictions, which many Middle Eastern individuals may not relate to, can alienate viewers. Saed felt that the Arabs portrayed in media never looked like his family or any Arabs he knew. Many viewers, especially children, may feel shame from the negative connotations associated with these inaccurate depictions and may internalize these messages.

In addition to the stereotypes in the movie’s culture, Aladdin generalizes the scenery and fictional city of Agrabah. The city becomes a single identity of Arab culture when in reality there are many different cities in the Middle East that vary greatly. This one depiction creates a single image for viewers to associate with the Middle East contributing to westerners’ shallow understanding of the Middle East.

Lastly, most of the Aladdin characters have exaggerated facial features while Aladdin and Jasmine have more white features. This enforces the subtle mindset that eurocentric features are most desirable and worthy.

Aladdin as a whole exemplifies the stereotyping of Middle Easterners in western films. It displays a narrow view of the Eastern world produced by the West as entertainment.

Can Orientalism Explain Stereotypes About Chinese Food?

There are some ideas that, despite their nakedly obvious racism, persist in the popular consciousness and subtly inform how we see different people. One of these ideas is that East Asians, particularly the Chinese, eat everything, including animals that Westerners think are taboo to eat. This idea has obvious connections to the theory of Orientalism in that it oversimplifies Eastern culture to make it appear opposite to similar concepts in the Western world: Chinese cuisine becomes savage and antiquated, which in turn makes the Western palate seem more civilized and sophisticated. Indeed, the unsubtle recent resurgence of this idea carried the message that Chinese food was “dirty,” with people in the early stages of the pandemic fearing they would contract COVID-19 if they ate at a Chinese restaurant.

While historically the concept of Chinese food has been met with fear and derision by Europeans and Americans, there is still an element of fascination that is also present in Orientalism; the East can supposedly offer “wonderful flavors wholly unknown to any American,” despite the fact that the menus of most Chinese restaurants in the US during the late 19th and early 20th centuries consisted of mostly Americanized hybrid dishes (this was done on purpose in order to destigmatize Chinese food and attract American customers). Even though Americans now have access to authentically prepared Chinese food, most restaurants that cook this way are extremely expensive and cater to a high-class demographic, so “real” Chinese food is still largely inaccessible to the American public, thus obscuring the real culture behind the food.

While the blatant fear surrounding Chinese food has significantly died down due to its rise in popularity across America, the sinophobia displayed at the start of the pandemic shows that we as a population have not detached ourselves from the racist systems of thought that form this attitude. In order to improve our views of foreign cultures and cuisine, we have to dismantle the West’s image of the East and get to know the reality of those places. To start, we could clear up the confusion surrounding the “exotic animals” that supposedly make up the Chinese diet. While markets that sell exotic or endangered animals like bats and pangolins do exist in China, they are fairly rare and very expensive to shop at, so your average Chinese person mostly eats dishes made with chicken, pork, beef, or seafood. And just like in the States, eating habits can vary based on the region of the country. By drawing back the biases and stereotypes, we can begin to recognize our similarities to and celebrate our differences from other cultures.

When Will We Stop Stereotyping People?

“Orientalism” is a way of seeing that imagines, emphasizes, exaggerates and distorts differences of Eastern peoples and cultures as compared to that of Europe and the U.S. It often involves seeing their culture as exotic, backward, uncivilized, and at times dangerous.

One of Edward Said’s central ideas in Orientalism is that knowledge about the East is generated not through actual facts, but through imagined constructs. These constructs imagined “Eastern” societies as fundamentally similar and sharing the characteristics that are not possessed by “Western” societies. Said argued that such knowledge was and is built through literary texts and historical records which are often limited in terms of their understanding of the authenticity of life in the Middle East. He further said that a long tradition of false and romanticized images of Asia and the Middle East in Western culture has served as an implicit justification for Europe and America’s colonial and imperial ambitions. 

How did this happen?

Said outlined a theory where Orientalism arose out of a need for the West to define itself as the opposite of a counterbalancing entity. Europe found this counterbalancing entity in the crusades to be the East. The West found itself in positions of political and military power over what it saw as the East and subsequently used this power to subjugate it. Once a tradition of superior values of the West and a static view of the East developed, the tradition solidified. And it was and is difficult to break free of these constructs. However, we have the ability to make our own history and help remove these stereotypes from society. 

Therefore, it is necessary for groups of people to speak for themselves and create discourses of their own history. They must share and dialogue with other people groups with the goal of true knowledge of the other and not merely political and “scholarly” knowledge.

Orientalism provides a critical theoretical framework through which people can explore numerous issues including: participating in systems of inequality, affirming commitments to social justice, and supporting those harmed by stereotypes and oppression, particularly those viewed as coming from the East. Conceptually, it also helps people make sense of certain types of knowledge construction associated with cultural competence, negative perceptions of Arab and Muslim women, aspects of international social work, Islamophobia, anti-Arab sentiments, speech, and practices, and more. 

So, how can we overcome this issue?

I think as a society we must realize and accept that people everywhere are just as good or bad, just as varied, and have the same fundamental needs and concerns, as people everywhere else. We all live and breathe on the same planet, Middle Easterners are not aliens from far away, they are human beings, just like “us” Westerners. That is the biggest, and first, step to overcoming Orientalism . Additionally, educating yourself and encouraging those around you to do the same about this lens will help grow awareness to avoid the consequences and move past it. 

TGSM – The Musical

A Rachel Czuba Theatricals Production

Full Length Musical. Family Drama, Forbidden Love Story, Political Drama

The God of Small Things: The Musical

Music by:Rachel Czuba
Lyrics by:Arundhati Roy
Stage Adaptation by:Rachel Czuba
Based on the Original Novel by:Arundhati Roy

Inside the Playbill


The God of Small Things is a modern musical adaptation of the haunting work of art produced by Arundhati Roy. The story takes place in multiple time zones, interpreted through lighting cues and age changes of the characters by switching them out with younger actors. This musical centers around the generational and familial trauma of the past, and how politics affects the world around us.

  • Setting: Ayemenem (1969 + 1993)
  • Dancing: Light (no dancing experience necessary)
  • Genre of Music: Jazz with hints of Bollywood
  • Cast Size: Small (10 people at most as ensemble)
  • Casting Notes: Adult and child versions of Estha and Rahel
  • Ideal For: College or adult productions, may need a modified version for High School production


The Play: 

  • “Before [Velutha] emerged through the trees and stepped into the driveway, Rahel saw him and slipped out of the Play and went to him. Ammu saw her go. Offstage, she watched them perform their elaborate Official Greeting” (166). 
  • ‘“Must we behave like some damn godforsaken tribe that’s just been discovered?” Ammu asked. “Oh dear,” Margaret Kochamma said. In the angry quietness of the Play (the Blue Army in the greenheat still watching), Ammu walked back to the Plymouth, took out her suitcase, slammed the door, and walked away to her room, her shoulders shining. Leaving everybody to wonder where she had learned her effrontery from” (171).

The Play is how Rahel sees the interaction between her family and the white newcomers. They’re acting a certain way to impress them, and both Rahel and Ammu recognize and express their frustration with this.


The exoticization of Ammu and the twins’ family when interacting with Margaret Kochamma and Sophie Mol (two white people), represents Orientalism. “Orient” means East, from where the sun rises, in relation to the Western perspective. This shows the power dynamic and the “ideal Other”; EUROPE / orient (POWERFUL / powerless). 

  • “They were a family of Anglophiles. Pointed in the wrong direction, trapped outside their own history and unable to retrace their steps because their footprints had been swept away” (51). 

Anglophiles are lovers of British culture, and, in this case, Estha and Rahel’s family despise themselves because of this. Chacko and Ammu’s father, Pappachi, had a blind devotion to the English. Edward Said defines Orientalism as “a Western style for dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient.” Connecting these two instances; the Play and the family’s title of being Anglophiles, Orientalism presents itself as the Westerner’s encouragement of the Easterners to judge themselves in terms of Western criteria. 


Main Characters
Estha – Estha is Rahel’s older twin brother by 18 minutes. He’s a serious, intelligent, and nervous kid who wears “beige and pointy shoes” and has an “Elvis puff”. 
– Requirements of Character: Must be a Bass, with acting experience
– Young Estha: Alto with acting experience

Rahel – Rahel is Estha’s younger twin sister by 18 minutes. She’s impulsive and wild, intelligent and straightforward, and is treated less than her brother. 
– Requirements of Character: Must be a Mezzo – Soprano, with acting experience
– Young Rahel: Soprano with acting experience

Ammu – Ammu is Rahel and Estha’s mother. She is strict and her twins feel as though they might lose her love, or are unworthy of it.
– Requirements of Character: Must be an Alto, with acting experience

Velutha – Velutha is an untouchable, who’s smart and a carpenter at the pickle factory. He’s a mentor for the twins and has an affair with their mother. 
– Requirements of Character: Must be a Bass, with acting experience

Chacko – Chacko is Estha’s and Rahel’s uncle. He has a child, Sophie Mol, with his ex wife, Margaret Kochama.
– Requirements of Character: No singing, must have acting experience

Baby Kochamma – Baby Kochamma is the twins’ maternal great aunt. She condemns the twins, Ammu and Velutha’s love, and herself, causing not only misery for herself but also misery for everyone else. She is one of the antagonists of the story.
– Requirements of Character: No singing, must have acting experience

Supporting Characters
Sophie Mol – Chacko and Margaret Kochama’s daughter, Estha and Rahel’s younger, white cousin. Her arrival leads to the downfall and tragic events that occur throughout the novel.

Pappachi – Chacko and Ammu’s father, an entomologist, who abused his wife and daughter. His “moth” is what controls Rahel’s obsession of achieving Ammu’s love. He is one of the antagonists of the story.

Mammachi – Pappachi’s wife and Chacko and Ammu’s mother. She owns the pickle factory and is blind.

Featured Character (ensemble)
10 people who will play the protesters, the ex-spouses, the Orangedrink Lemondrink man, etc.

Act One (songs)

  1. Paradise Pickles and Preserves
  2. Pappachi’s Moth
  3. Big Man the Laltain, Small Man the Mombatti
  4. Abhilash Talkies
  5. God’s Own Country
  6. Cochin kangaroos
  7. Wisdom Exercise Notebooks
  8. Welcome Home, Our Sophie Mol
  9. Mrs. Pillai, Mrs. Eapen, Mrs. Rajagopalan
  10. The River in the Boat
  11. The God of Small Things


Act Two (songs)

  1. Kochu Thomban
  2. The Pessimist and the Optimist
  3. Work is Struggle
  4. The Crossing
  5. A Few Hours Later
  6. Cochin Harbor Terminus
  7. The History House
  8. Saving Ammu
  9. The Madras Mail
  10. The Cost of Living

“It was a time when the unthinkable became the thinkable and the impossible really happened.”

The God of Small Things

Love, Money, and Mammachi

There are few moments in the novel that we get Mammachi’s perspective and one of the most striking to me was on page 160-161 where she slips Margaret Kochamma money and the author recounts her history with Chacko and the women he slept with. Even though Margaret is English, Mammachi looks down on her and considers her below her son as her father was a shopkeeper. However, she also hates Margaret for stealing some of her son’s affection from her. After Chacko saved her from her husband’s violence,

Mammachi packed her wifely luggage and committed it to Chacko’s care. From then onwards, he became the repository of all her womanly feelings. Her Man. Her only Love.

Even though Chacko continued to have sexual relationships with women from the factory, Mammachi chalks it up to a Man’s Needs and to further separate their relationships from love, she slipped them money so that she could consider their time with Chacko a service payed for and Needs met rather than something more complicated would end in a feeling of replacement. She attempts to do the same with Margaret Kochamma and since Margaret never finds the money or tries to give it back, Mammachi can consider her “just another whore” and resents less her son’s attachment to her.

In this passage, Roy continues her capitalization of improper nouns like Men’s Needs to emphasize that just as the children place utmost importance on adult concepts they don’t understand, Mammachi has created something that, while important enough to deserve capitalization in her mind, maintains its air of mystery.

The passage also further characterizes Mammachi and illustrates the importance of money to her. Every problem she faces is confronted with her wealth or social status, including the way that she feels betrayed by her son. However, it is interesting that unlike many more wealthy people in the US that view Marxism as a direct affront and threat to their livelihoods, neither Chacko or Mammachi treat it that way. To Chacko, it is a romantic notion to be considered in theory while he enjoys the comforts of his home and his “feudal libido”. Mammachi considers it dangerous in the wrong hands but of course in her beloved Chacko’s it is acceptable.

Finally, I think that Margaret Kochamma’s obliviousness is also an important facet of a continuing theme in the novel of her willing ignorance of the culture of the people she is staying with. It also makes an interesting parallel with the hotel guests’ response to the Kathakali dancers in a later chapter. The guests and Margaret Kochamma are both missing the vital conflicts going on around them and unwilling to go beyond their narrow concept of Kerala and its customs to understand either the great ancient drama unfolding before them or the complicated family relationships they are being wrapped in.

This passage furthers so many ideas and themes present throughout the rest of the novel and illustrates the complex relationships between Mammachi, Chacko, and Margaret Kochamma. While it is only a couple of pages, it is in my opinion packed with meaning and context vital for the rest of the book.

Aladdin and Orientalism

I don’t see movies in theatre often. I’m just not a movie person. However, for whatever reason, I went and saw Disney’s Live-Action Aladdin back when it came out in 2019. I enjoyed the film and didn’t think much of it afterward until this year when I was introduced to the concept of Orientalism. Before this class, I had no idea what that was or what it referred to. Now, after exploring the definition, I am now being challenged to apply this concept to a modern concept in my own life. The first thing I thought of was this film. Before class a few days ago, I thought the film and its depiction of Middle Eastern Culture was reasonable. However, I’m now beginning to think it may be a bit outdated, to say the least.

The truth is, this film is a prime example of Orientalism and proof that it hasn’t changed, even in modern times. The 1992 animated version of Aladdin was problematic itself: according to the article “Orientalism in Film: Aladdin Over the Last Century,” the film introduces the characters’ cultural backgrounds to be “barbaric and uncivil.” Additionally, minor details in the film, such as the clothing that the main characters wear, are all inconsistent with the reality of these cultures. Based on the backlash from that film, you would think that filmmakers would make more of an effort to prevent the inaccurate perceptions of the East that Orientalism amplifies. Yet, there appear to be similar problems with the second film.

The actors hired to play the main characters in the live-action film are not even Middle-Eastern actors; however, according to author Maha Albadrawi, “different cultural backgrounds are not interchangeable,” and in doing this the film is already reinforcing Orientalism and erasing culture and history. This is the first of many problems that critics found with the live-action film. Yet, they all appear to be rooted in the same way: filmmakers and producers are letting European culture influence their depictions of the Middle East. It won’t be until we, as a society, reject our inaccurate impressions and make an effort to actively engage and educate ourselves in Middle Eastern culture that Orientalism will become less relevant.

Live, Love, Laugh, Lear

Throughout the story of King Lear, the King, King Lear is presented as a crazy man who wants nothing but power over people. While this may be originally true, this sense begins to be unraveled as the story progresses. In the beginning, it seems the KL only wants to be told his daughters love him and two of them do in order to get as much land as possible. On the other hand, the third daughter tells KL only that she has shown her love throughout her life and shouldn’t need to explain it in the moment. This begins the story of the greedy and powerful King Lear. As the story progresses KL seems to become more power-hungry and care for little else. And while this is partly true we also see the true nature of who KL was before he was a crazy man. There are moments of clarity where we see who King Lear really was, one of these moments is when they are in the storm standing outside a cottage. While KL was all about standing in the storm and understanding the world he shows empathy for those with whom he’s traveling. He tells them to go inside, that he understands that they cannot be in such weather. This insight into the true man that KL was gives sympathy and allows the reader to understand what was really going on that the KL that we see throughout the story isn’t the real king. To that I say Long live King Lear.

Lear(n) from King Lear

My dad’s parents are much older than most grandparents. My grandma was of the first generation born in an independent Ireland and my grandpa remembers the Great Depression and fighting in WWII.

Both constantly told stories, which made me love history and storytelling. They taught me many important lessons through these stories (for example, don’t steal Jeeps). I am so grateful that they told the stories and that I listened.

A lot of people might not be attracted to the story of King Lear because he is not young. However, King Lear is so powerful and important because Lear is older – it shows that a person can change even in old age and, through the story of an old person, it encourages the audience to change before they are in old age.

The audience has a lot to learn from Lear’s journey during the play. Similarly, we have a lot to learn from the older people in our lives. We don’t inherently owe our elders respect. However, we do owe it to listen to them.

Personality Typing in King Lear

One of my favorite things to do when I encounter a new story is to try my hand at assigning them a Myers-Briggs personality type. When it comes to King Lear, some of the characters were abnormally easy to gauge, as they served as archetypes for a few different types. Lear, for example, is a typical ESTJ. Generally seen as power-hungry and strong-minded, ESTJs have a cognitive function stack of Te-Si-Ne-Fi. This means that their dominant function is extroverted thinking (Te), which harshly analyzes the world around them to process and organize information. In King Lear, we see this in his tendency to look at information from a purely rational perspective and his blatant disregard for the feelings of those around him. ESTJ’s auxiliary function is introverted sensing (Si), which is a processing function and determines an individual’s method of processing information internally and in real-time. This manifests in King Lear’s frequent comparisons of current events, not from a philosophical standpoint, but from a more rational and pragmatic one. The combination of his dominant and auxiliary functions serves to take in information directly from the environment, analyze it based on tangible and factual data, and organize it into a logical framework that compares current and past data in order to categorize things appropriately. The tertiary function of an ESTJ is extriverted intuition (Ne), which seeks to observe and understand the possibilities of the outside world. Because this is not one of his first two functions it is used far less frequently and is developed later on in life than the Te and Si. Finally, the inferior function is introverted feeling (Fi). This function, used the least, guides the ESTJ through the processing of their own emotions.

However, while under stress, ESTJs begin to act very differently. The tendency of every MBTI type, while undergoing some kind of stressful event or period, is to fall back on their tertiary and inferior functions because of an overhwleming desire to excape. In the case of ESTJs, they begin to heavily lean on Ne and Fi, causing them to overanalyze the philosophical implications of their poor state-of-mind and hyperfixate on their feelings of confusion and unrest. Ne and Fi are the two dominant functions of an INFP, Cordelia’s type (Fi, Ne, Si, Te). I believe this is why Lear and Cordelia seem to find much more common ground by the end of the play, as their outlook and processing of information is somewhat similar.

The King’s healthy functioning is seen almost exclusively at the beginning of the play, but as he begins to deteriorate, the pragmatic and decisive nature of his ESTJ stack deteriorates with him, causing himself to get lost in an internal world of deep sorrow and complex questioning of life.

King Lear in Modern Politics

King Lear contains many motifs and examples that can be seen in politics today. This makes me marvel at how Shakespeare incorporated elements of leadership and politics that are still relevant almost 500 years later.

One major example of this correlation can be seen in President Trump’s “reign,” in which he had some of the same attitudes and leadership strategies as King Lear. For example, both Lear and Trump tried to fix all problems on their own instead of relying on others for help and advice. Lear does not really listen to those around him, as he thinks that because he is the King, he is in charge, and only his ideas are the acceptable ones.

Another example of King Lear coming to life in politics today can be seen through the President’s cabinet. In King Lear, his daughters Goneril and Reagan both praise King Lear, telling him how much they love him, and how devoted to him they are. However, it becomes clear that his daughters do not truly love him, but just wanted the power and land that their father could give them. The President’s cabinet is a group of people that the president surrounds himself with to give him advice and handle more specific problems. The idea is to have some people that do not have the same viewpoints as you, so that you have a variety of viewpoints to make the best decision for the country. Nowadays, however, it has become increasingly polarized, and the cabinet is often filled with people that have the same viewpoints as the President. During Trump’s presidency, I remember reading an article about how Trump fired one of his cabinet members for something that he said against Trump. This seems very similar to Lear kicking Cordelia out for not professing her love to him.

While it is clear that any president is not as bad as King Lear, and not nearly as crazy, the correlations between Lear and politics today do make me think about practices in politics, and the way that people have been conditioned to respond to ideas they do not agree with. This idea of hearing different viewpoints is extremely important in today’s culture, as social media has made it so people only hear ideas that they agree with, creating an even greater political divide. By keeping in mind the Tragedy of King Lear, we can avoid these problems and not fall down the rabbit hole that Shakespeare prophesied.

King Lear: A True Example of Karma

There are a few different instances of karma being a role in King Lear. But the acts and decisions of Goneril and Regan stand out to me the most. In Act 1, they give these elegant speeches about how much they love their father. Explaining how words or material possessions cannot describe how much they love him. But it does not take long for the sisters to forget every word they said and turn on their father for their self-interest. In Act 1, Scene 3, Goneril tells Oswald to start acting against Lear and treating him disrespectfully. She also tries to lessen his number of knights. With Regan being on her side, this begins the downfall of King Lear and also, where the slow downfall of the daughters.

The way Goneril & Regan act unto others in the play are also uncalled for. One of the more popular scenes in the play, where Regan insists Cornwall plucks out the eyes of Gloucester and also murders a servant. These sisters are both blinded by their own greed and self-interest, that they will do anything and harm anyone to be able to be on top. But as we all know, this mindset and their actions ultimately lead them to their downfall and finally, at the end of the play, their death.

As I came to the end of King Lear, the first thing I said to myself was, “Karma’s a b*tch.” Reading this play, it was sort of obvious that something like this would happen, but being able to experience it all happen and witness the outcome that was placed in front of us was best way for the play to come to an end. Pride, jealousy and greed will always lead to downfall and we got a good example of it in King Lear.

Manliness, Emasculation, and the Fear of Strong Women

Gender roles play a HUGE role in the storyline of King Lear. From the emasculation and takedown of King Lear resulting in a major loss of power to him to the ultimate, untimely demise of every strong, or even just, every female character, this work truly highlights sexism that was alive and prospering during the time period in which Shakespeare wrote it.

At the beginning of the play, in Act 1, Scene 1, Lear is furious at the fact that Cordelia states she will love her husband when she marries him in the future, and will thus not be able to afford every drop of her love and devotion to her father, for now, and forever. He states, “I loved her most and thought to set my rest On her kind nursery. Hence and avoid my sight!(I, i, 137-139). Here it can be seen that unconditional love is only expected of women in this play. Lear banished Cordelia because she would not love him unconditionally for her entire life in the way he expected. While parents are supposed to love their children unconditionally, Lear abandons his daughter, the one he loved the most, because of gender roles.

According to Lear, his other two daughters, Goneril and Regan, aren’t much better than Cordelia. Both of his daughters have stated that if he wishes to live with them, then he must reduce his worldly possessions to almost nothing. In this grand act of emasculation, Regan states, “What need you five-and-twenty, ten, or five, To follow in a house where twice so many Have a command to tend you? What need one?”(II, iv, 300-303). Here, Regan is completely overpowering Lear. She is “stripping” him of the last few things he has power over, to allow him to stay and be cared for by her. Lear sees this as a complete and absolute reduction of his power, which he refuses to stand for. Instead of being reasonable and giving up his men, he leaves her castle as an insane storm rages on.

At the end of the play, all three of Lear’s daughters end up dying in the battle that rages on for power and total control of the kingdom. Regan was killed by her sister, Goneril. According to the Gentleman, “Your lady, sir, your lady. And her sister By her is poisoned. She confesses it”(V, iii, 268-269). Goneril poisoned Regan over Edmund, a man, for fear that she would have stolen him from her. By having these women die over a man, Shakespeare is reinforcing the gender roles that women are petty, and exist purely for men and to fight over men. He does not even afford them their own, unique deaths. Rather, deaths by one another, grasping for a man they cannot both have. Cordelia is mourned the most by her father. He is overcome with grief when he finds her lifeless body and, in response, states, “Her voice was ever soft, Gentle, and low, an excellent thing in a woman”( V, iii, 328-329). Even in her death, Lear enforces patriarchal ideas of what women can be. He liked that she was quiet, subservient, and gentle, and in her death, that is what he is choosing to remember. Not the times she controlled an army, or stood up for herself, using her voice. He never chose to acknowledge her power.

Are Trump and Lear comparable?

Reading King Lear reminds us all of one “king:” former president Donald Trump.

Like Lear, Trump plays the victim more than he takes responsibility for his actions. Lear claims he is more “sinned against than sinning.” Similarly, Trump blames the “fake news” media for his own mistakes. Trump also uses derogatory words against women he disagrees with, calling some “pigs,” similar to how Lear refers to women he argues with as animals. Even their over-expressive language matches, with Trump claiming he is always the best (or “least racist person”) and Lear more or less forcing his daughters to exaggerate their love for him.

But even with all of their similarities, I think it is foolish to compare Trump and Lear when you take a step back. In fact, I think the two counter each other’s narrative.

Lear is a tragic character. He begins with power, and due to his own actions, loses what he once had. But with the other leader, Trump, he miraculously gained power, despite having all of the character flaws that Lear had.

Trump became the first president to have never had previous political or military experience. He went from a reality star to leader of the free world. If anything, Trump teaches us that diverging attention away from your own mistakes, having a problem with women in power, and being straight-up power-hungry can work, even in the 21st century.

Some would argue that we saw the fall, or the tragedy, of Trump in the 2020 election. But no matter how bad that election was for him or how bad he further ruins his reputation in the future, he still became president. He became the most powerful person in the world. Trump’s story is technically a comedy.

Character flaws in Shakespeare’s times, or at least in one of his plays, win in our era.

Family Ties

In Act 5, as Lear and Cordelia die their indominable family tie is shown. What made Cordelia stand out from her sisters, was her pure heart and good intention. Her character comes back into fruition at the end of the tragedy. Cordelia is unlike her sisters in the fact that she did not profess disingenuous love to her father.

In the end of the tragedy, Lear realizes the mistakes he has made with his daughter, his sorrow is exacerbated by his impending death. “When thou dost ask me blessing, I’ll kneel down and ask of thee forgiveness.” (V.III.) In the end, Lear finally is holding himself accountable for his action of banishing his daughter. Often times when one is nearing death, they have this realization and try to right there wrongs before it is too late.

Cordelia’s pure heart cannot bear to see her father in his condition. Despite all the pain he inflicted upon her, she still cares for him. So much show that she says, “For the, oppressed king, I am cast down. Myself could else outfrown false Fortune’s frown.” (V.III.) When Cordelia reunites with Lear in the last scene, she wishes it was her who is sick not him. Only a daughter’s love can forgive a father for his atrocious actions.

Love is fickle, complex, and unexplainable. The love between Cordelia and Lear shows a true love that stood over time. Cordelia is an admirable character for her ability to forgive. Readers also see Lear’s growth as he realizes the consequences of his action. Act 5 offered a bittersweet ending in a true tragedy style of writing, as readers learned from the characters downfalls in the story and not all is lost in love.

King Lear, Narcissism & Leadership

Chaya Bhuvaneswar’s take on King Lear is compelling and presents a characterization of the King as a narcissist whose ultimate suffering is being anything different. In fact, in their article, The Madness of King Trump: On Being Unfit to Serve, they claim that the King’s Act 1 Scene 1 attack against Cordelia is only a tough love lesson on what it means to be royal. Is it harsh? Maybe. But in their words, Lear “like other egocentric rulers, rewards sycophants and punishes honesty whenever it strikes them as a threat to their grandeur.”

What follows is an intricate analysis of leaders and well, their narcissism and mania. The following question is posed: “What leader isn’t something of a narcissist, elected or no?”

Sure, no-one can argue that there are selfish political figures concerned more with their own interests rather than a constituents.

But is putting yourself first actually being a leader?

Can someone who lacks empathy, like a narcissist, be a leader?

A central point of the play is Lear learning to understand others. Lear starts to regains his empathy in the storm. After being confronted by his daughters, he recognizes the hardships that await those outside the comfort of his kingdom walls. He compares himself to them and realizes while he is complaining about how many servants there are to his name, some have no choice but to sit out in the storm. Eventually, that empathy also extends to Cordelia. Through it, he remembers why he was in power in the first place and turns the play into a humbling, arguably heroic narrative for the King.

This is when we see Lear at his best. Even though it was too late.

Maybe that’s why we excuse narcissism and “unfitness” in leaders especially political ones. If we are judging the capability of a leader based on their influence and their ability to command a troop into battle, then yes. A narcissist would be perfect for the job. Narcissists are expectional at manipulating opinions and influencing minds in order to get what they want.

Using that as the measuring point, the question is no longer whether narcissists can be leaders but when do you draw the line? And if they are the precedent, who is to follow? When Lear was deemed to mad to lead, Regan and Goneril stepped into the picture and brought wicked plans with them.

Lear doomed himself. Why? Because as narcissists do, he alienated himself. He begins the play by banishing Kent, his most loyal servant and sending Cordelia away, his most loyal daughter. He isolated himself until the power was only in one vehicle and was so easy to take. Like candy from a baby.

King Lear and Social Class

In Shakespeare’s play, The Tragedy of King Lear, multiple character’s realize the injustice baked into our society through social class. Both Lear and Gloucester realize, when at their lowest, that they are not alone in their struggles. The injustices that they faced in those moments was an experience shared widely across their kingdom, by many, many more people. They both come to the realization that they haven’t been doing enough to address the gap between the social classes, and realized that it is too late for them to make a difference because they had lost all of their power. They both remark on how the rich and those in power should experience what it is like to be poor and to suffer. If the rich knew how they were feeling, they would be more likely to do something about it. Lear adds that the rich will not act in the favor of the poor because they enjoy their current lives and refuse to see the struggles of those around them. This idea, although written hundreds of years ago, is still incredibly relevant today. There are millions op people in this country who are struggling to make ends meet and living paycheck to paycheck, off of wages that aren’t enough to survive. The working class has been routinely manipulated and abused in order to fund the extravagant lives of the wealthy. Those currently in power don’t want to do anything in order to aid the working class, partially because they enjoy their comfortable lives themselves, and partially because they are in league with the wealth, who want to use working class people for as much labor as possible and hoard all of the profits for themselves. The play argues that, if the wealthy were to experience what it is like to be poor, and that it is not a choice, they wouldn’t be so cruel and would make an effort to help them more. While I think this idea is a good one in theory, the wealthy would never be put in the situation of the poor, and if they were, there would be another wealthy person to take their place and continue to manipulate the working class. I think, in agreement with Lear, that the best way to aid the working class and make things right is to redistribute the wealth that those in power have accumulated and hoard for themselves. If their wealth was redistributed among the people, we would have a better, more efficient, and equitable society in which we don’t have people starving and dying ion the streets, or going bankrupt because they can’t afford healthcare.

Bastards in Shakespeare’s England

Edmund the bastard has a label scarred onto him which he cannot shake off, and which causes him to hold a unquenchable desire to secure power and prove himself worthy of respect and his fathers title. In introducing Edmund, Shakespeare ensures the bastard label is made clear, and makes Edmund’s feelings around the label known. “Why brand they us with base?….” Shakespeare must have included “bastard” as a central character trait for a reason, given the English societal customs of his period.

Using “bastard” as a central character trait was not unique to King Lear for Shakespeare. In “King John” Phillip the Bastard served as a more noble representation of a bastard. Bastards are included in a number of other Shakespeare plays, but with more minor roles.

Shakespeare seems to feel sympathy for bastards in his plays, even for the villainous Edmund. His writing appears to sympathizes with the grievances Edmund lays out in his “Stand up for Bastards” speech.

One theory for Shakespeare’s bastard focus is rumored to be that he had a bastard son of his own. A book recently published called “Shakespeare’s Bastard” suggests Shakespeare’s godson, who became a famous poet and shared a unique facial feature with Shakespeare, was actually Shakespeare’s illegitimate (and only) son.

Of course the book merely speculates, but the importance of the Bastard label in English society remained. The coat of arms of all royal bastards was required to feature a band dexter to signal their baseness. A papal decree from 786, almost 750 years before the birth of Shakespeare, declared english royalty “must not be begotten in adultery or incest” and that “he who was not born of a legitimate marriage” could not succeed to the throne.

There had been a few famous English Royal Bastards, but none who became as powerful as Edmund in Lear.

Robert, 1st Earl of Glouster, for example managed to secure power by being the oldest illegitimate son of the king. He was entrusted with holdings in Normandy by his father.

King Lear is Really the Hero

I think that throughout the book, the way it is written it seems as if Lear is the bad guy. To me I think that he is just really misunderstood, and I think that’s why he is my favorite character. Just because he was the King everyone views him as some snob who just cares about power and land but what he really cares about is his family and doing the right thing. He got his land robbed from him and was betrayed by his own daughters and yet still kept a positive mindset on things. At certain points there are times where he seems bad, but he has so much anger built up because of the betrayal he has gone through and sometimes that anger comes out. He is also a character that shows a great amount of change/development. In the begging he is very uptight and banishes certain people for very silly reasons yet overtime he learns things about himself and realizes that without power you have to gain peoples respect on your own without just demanding it. Characters that grow over time appeal to me a lot because it shows how dynamic they are and how unique their personality is. Lear completes the plot of the play and shows many themes throughout just through himself. Without him the book as a whole wouldn’t make sense and would lose so much of the dynamic effect.