chapter  7
Survival of the Classic
Pages 17

There is some truth in this; it is merely a pejorative way of saying that whatever an individual makes of King Lear, and even the fact that he is in a position to make something of it, derives from the existence of a continuous tradition of valuation. This may not seem to be expertly critical, and often it sounds simply like lip-service, but it implies a general cultural agreement, regularly transmitted; and it further implies that to reject King Lear, which out of indifference or dislike one might be prepared to do, would be to reject a lot of other things one does mind losing. So Tolstoi is quite reasonable in saying that the whole culture that protects Lear is what ought to be rejected with the play; its values are immoral and irreligious, and the fact that it makes a treasure of such a play is merely evidence of this. It might have been, by a different chance, Dekker or Marlowe or Spenser who got cultural protection; it happened to be Shakespeare, and specifically King Lear, that qualified for preservation by a wicked society.