The Geopolitics of King Lear: Territory, Land, Earth

Stuart Elden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Shakespeare's King Lear begins with a division of Britain between the King's daughters. Lear says he wishes to divest himself of "interest of territory, cares of state." What follows is a remarkable play about the politics of space, not simply in terms of Lear's story but also in terms of the subplot concerning the legitimate and illegitimate sons of the Duke of Gloucester and the inheritance of land. Three aspects of what might be called the play's "geopolitics" are examined here: its use of the term "territory," the wider politics of land that structures the narrative, and the more figurative sense of the word "earth." Territory and land are controlled, fought over, distributed, gifted, bought, and sold. Examining the text of King Lear therefore sheds light on Shakespeare's political thought and his sense of the politics of geography. The reading here also takes into account the important differences between the Folio and Quarto editions of the text, especially as they affect the identity of the invading force led by Lear's youngest daughter, Cordelia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)147-165
Number of pages19
JournalLaw and Literature
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Earth
  • Geopolitics
  • King Lear
  • Land
  • Territory
  • William Shakespeare

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