You kick and struggle your way out of your mummy’s womb, screaming at the top of your voice to tell the world you’re here… or slide out elegantly if your manners are already properly polished… and then you start making deals.
You are a family member and you have to work with family and if you don’t get family right, how can you hope to get the village right, or the city… or the world – is that what Will Shakespeare was saying… I suddenly wondered, thinking back on Robert’s Lear?
Sons conceived (with lots of fun) out of wedlock… grown up married sisters fighting over the same likely, attractive lad… that lad disinherited, therefore loyal to no-one… one brother hitting on the other… that brother forced to lose his identity, disguise himself, so as to stay alive in the country of his birth… Old and young too fond of and up themselves to ever say they’re sorry they did a bad thing… A family can survive one, perhaps two of these wrong moves… but if the rules collapse altogether, is that family in big trouble? And did Shakespeare, in his older age, match this picture of the quarreling family to the state of SOCIETY at large.
By extension a society, a country is, you can make the case, a family – either working well, with not too many (unforgivable) slip-ups… or in big trouble if too many supporting rules and laws and moral props fall apart?
Shakespeare was never a dreary moraliser – he hated Puritans – but as the Old Queen’s succession became more and more of an urgent problem, with everyone fighting for their share of the goodies, did he get scared and foresee social disintegration… because that’s what happens in Lear.