early lears

[What] exactly is the moral of King Lear? Evidently there are two morals, one explicit, the other implied in the story.
Shakespeare starts by assuming that to make yourself powerless is to invite an attack. This does not mean that everyone will turn against you (Kent and the Fool stand by Lear from first to last), but in all probability someone will. If you throw away your weapons, some less scrupulous person will pick them up. If you turn the other cheek, you will get a harder blow on it than you got on the first one. This does not always happen, but it is to be expected, and you ought not to complain if it does happen. The second blow is, so to speak, part of the act of turning the other cheek. First of all, therefore, there is the vulgar, common-sense moral drawn by the Fool: ‘Don’t relinquish power, don’t give away your lands.’ But there is also another moral. Shakespeare never utters it in so many words, and it doesn’t not very much matter whether he was fully aware of it. It is contained in the story, which, after all, he made up, or altered to suit his purposes. It is: 'Give away your lands if you want to, but don’t expect to gain happiness by doing so. Probably you won’t gain happiness. If you live for others, you must live for others, and not as a roundabout way of getting an advantage for yourself.’
—  “Lear, Tolstoy and the Fool” (1947) by George Orwell.

This is a book by James Shapiro. 

Genre: non-fiction, history, lit crit
Setting: London, 1606
# of Pages: 306
Rating: 5/5

The skinny: Because I have such a massive literary crush on James Shapiro, it’s quite possible this review is biased. But it’s equally possible that Shapiro is simply a scholastic genius.

 The fat: As in 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare, Shapiro’s wit and insight and–perhaps above all else, sense of narrative style–make for a read that is both delightful and informative in The Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606. He weaves together with spectacular finesse what little we know of the man Shakespeare, what can be gleaned from his works, and all that was afoot in this turbulent year of James I’s reign. What with plague and the famous Gunpowder Plot, a bid for Union and the momentous visit of King Christian of Denmark, it’s a wonder that Shakespeare got any writing done at all, but Shapiro helps the reader see how the three major works he put out in this year–namely, Macbeth, Antony and Cleopatra,and, perhaps most significantly, King Lear, both shaped and were shaped by the turmoil of the times. A must-read for any Shakespearean scholar, or anyone with a craving for a truly remarkable work of literary and historical exploration.