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.