Every Turn of the Wheel: Circular Time and Cordelia's Revolt: from William Shakespeare to the British Enlightenment


  • Tadd Graham Fernée New Bulgarian University, Sofia, Bulgaria




William Shakespeare, King Lear, Tudor history, Stuart history, English Civil War, David Hume, Enlightenment, political pluralism, secularism, theocracy


This article argues that William Shakespeare's King Lear anticipates core political dynamics of the English Civil War (1641-49), and philosophical tenets of the British Enlightenment in John Locke and David Hume. It analyzes three principle and competing paradigms of public authority in King Lear: theodicy, nature, and the autonomy of thought. The play is historically contextualized within the 16th century. King Lear, moreover, portends revolutionary new thought patterns: the centerless universe of modern astronomy, and human embeddedness in fluid nature without fixed identity. Three variants on the concept of 'nothing' - existential, social, and philosophical - interweave the cosmic and political threads, based on a circular temporality. Shakespeare's character, Cordelia, affirms the everyday over the cosmic, and the sociological over the metaphysical. King Lear depicts a profound moral trans-valuation in early modern history, whose shifting temporal horizons remain central also to contemporary politics.

Author Biography

Tadd Graham Fernée, New Bulgarian University, Sofia, Bulgaria

Tadd Graham Fernée belongs to the New Bulgarian University English Studies department, and has lectured in English and the History of Ideas. He recently completed a Fellowship at Indian Institute of
Advanced Study, Shimla, producing forthcoming book Beyond the Faustian Bargain: Indian and Egyptian
development experiments in Transnational Perspective. He is the author of Enlightenment and Violence:
modernity and nation-making (2014) and co-author of Islam, Democracy, and Cosmopolitanism (2014). He has published a variety of articles in comparative history and literature, often focused on India and the
Middle East. He has worked as a researcher for New York University.


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How to Cite

Fernée, T. G. (2017). Every Turn of the Wheel: Circular Time and Cordelia’s Revolt: from William Shakespeare to the British Enlightenment. English Studies at NBU, 3(1), 5–25. https://doi.org/10.33919/esnbu.17.1.1