Buddhist Lessons from “King Lear”

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 14, 2007

Shakespeare, Buddha, and King Lear

Melvin Sterne
Florida State University

Given Shakespeare’s status as “the secular Bible,” it is surprising that his work has not been examined more closely to consider its spiritual teachings. As Buddhist studies increase in popularity in the West, more and more Buddhist scholars are being drawn to evaluate Shakespeare’s work in light of Buddhist traditions. Of special interest today is the perception of Shakespeare’s works as points-of-resistance to the dominant global-consumerist ideology. According to Stanley Wells, Lear’s “non-naturalistic interpretation of action” lends itself to the interpretation of its “moral and philosophical concepts.” This article considers the developing relationship between Shakespeare and Buddhism, and through a close read of King Lear establishes some of the methods and questions which may prove Shakespeare fertile ground for Buddhist scholars.

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