Sederi 30 — 2020
María José Mora
Katherine Romack, “The Romance of Nahum Tate’s King Lear.” SEDERI 30 (2020): 91–115.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.34136/sederi.2020.5 Download PDF
Nahum Tate’s History of King Lear (1681) refigures Shakespeare’s natural man on a Hobbesian model in order to make the play legible to Restoration audiences. As a way to mitigate Hobbes’s ethically hollow conception of human nature as acquisitive and self-interested, Tate provides his viewers with a compensatory romance. Tate’s “unaccommodated Man” is governed by self-interest yet capable of transcendent love (3.3.81). The liberties Tate took with Shakespeare catered to his audience’s uneasy assimilation of secular and empirical ideas about what it meant to be human that made Shakespeare’s original feel both alien and disturbing. The romanticized human nature offered up in Tate’s Lear accounts for the success the play enjoyed well into the nineteenth century. As much as we might give the adaptation the side-eye, we are, in fact, affectively and ethically closer to Tate than we are to Shakespeare.
Keywords: King Lear; Nahum Tate; Shakespeare; ethics; Christianity; romance
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