Writing in an era that extensively criminalized vagrancy, Shakespeare, in King Lear, presents a radical deconstruction of the dominant discourses of homelessness. While the play is a commercial exploitation of the social anxieties surrounding the confluence of elder abandonment and homelessness, it nonetheless provides a public contestation of the governmental rhetorics used to justify the persecution of vagrants. King Lear exposes the complex social and economic roots of vagabondage, shows that familial codes of responsibility were largely compensatory constructions that effectively obscured the reality of vagrancy, and parodies the popular stereotype of the dissembling beggar. Shakespeare's subversive representation of vagrancy was in part motivated by a distinct professional concern to disconnect the worrisome cultural and judicial linkages between stage performers, dissimulating rogues, and the homeless poor.

Additional Metadata
Keywords Adorno, Theodor, Beggars, King Lear, Old age, Shakespeare, Theatre, English Renaissance, Vagrancy
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.7227/CE.71.1.5
Journal Cahiers Elisabethains
Citation
Stymeist, D.S. (2007). "Fortune, that arrant whore, ne'er turns the key to th' poor": Vagrancy, old age and the theatre in Shakespeare's King Lear. Cahiers Elisabethains (Vol. 71, pp. 37–47). doi:10.7227/CE.71.1.5