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King Lear Assignment

English OAC
Shakespeare’s tragedy King Lear is a detailed description of
the consequences of one man’s decisions. This fictitious man is
Lear, King of England, who’s decisions greatly alter his life and
the lives of those around him. As Lear bears the status of King he
is, as one expects, a man of great power but sinfully he surrenders
all of this power to his daughters as a reward for their
demonstration of love towards him. This untimely abdication of his
throne results in a chain reaction of events that send him through
a journey of hell. King Lear is a metaphorical description of one
man’s journey through hell in order to expiate his sin.


As the play opens one can almost immediately see that Lear
begins to make mistakes that will eventually result in his
downfall. The very first words that he speaks in the play are :-
“…Give me the map there. Know that we have
divided
In three our kingdom, and ’tis our fast intent
To shake all cares and business from our age,
Conferring them on younger strengths while we
Unburdened crawl to death…”
(Act I, Sc i, Ln 38-41)
This gives the reader the first indication of Lear’s intent to
abdicate his throne. He goes on further to offer pieces of his
kingdom to his daughters as a form of reward to his test of love.


“Great rivals in our youngest daughter’s love,
Long in our court have made their amorous
sojourn,
And here are to be answered. Tell me, my
daughters
(Since now we will divest us both of rule,
Interest of territory, cares of state),
Which of you shall we say doth love us most?
That we our largest bounty may extend
where nature doth with merit challenge.”
(Act I, Sc i, Ln 47-53)
This is the first and most significant of the many sins that he
makes in this play. By abdicating his throne to fuel his ego he is
disrupts the great chain of being which states that the King must
not challenge the position that God has given him. This
undermining of God’s authority results in chaos that tears apart
Lear’s world. Leaving him, in the end, with nothing. Following
this Lear begins to banish those around him that genuinely care for
him as at this stage he cannot see beyond the mask that the evil
wear. He banishes Kent, a loyal servant to Lear, and his youngest
and previously most loved daughter Cordelia. This results in Lear
surrounding himself with people who only wish to use him which
leaves him very vulnerable attack. This is precisely what happens
and it is through this that he discovers his wrongs and amends
them.


Following the committing of his sins, Lear becomes abandoned
and estranged from his kingdom which causes him to loose insanity.


While lost in his grief and self-pity the fool is introduced to
guide Lear back to the sane world and to help find the lear that
was ounce lost behind a hundred Knights but now is out in the open
and scared like a little child. The fact that Lear has now been
pushed out from behind his Knights is dramatically represented by
him actually being out on the lawns of his castle. The terrified
little child that is now unsheltered is dramatically portrayed by
Lear’s sudden insanity and his rage and anger is seen through the
thunderous weather that is being experienced. All of this
contributes to the suffering of Lear due to the gross sins that he
has committed.


The pinnacle of this hell that is experienced be Lear in order
to repay his sins is at the end of the play when Cordelia is
killed. Lear says this before he himself dies as he cannot live
without his daughter.


“Howl, howl, howl! O, you are men of stones.


Had I your tongues and eyes, I’d use them so
That heaven’s vault should crack. She’s gone
for ever!
I know when one is dead, and when one lives.


She’s dead as earth. Lend me a looking glass.


If that her breath will mist or stain the
stone,
Why, then she lives.”
(Act V, Sc iii, Ln 306-312)
All of this pain that Lear suffered is traced back to the
single most important error that he made. The choice to give up
his throne. This one sin has proven to have massive repercussions
upon Lear and the lives of those around him eventually killing
almost all of those who were involved. And one is left to ask
one’s self if a single wrong turn can do this to Lear then what
difficult corner lies ahead that ma cause similar alterations in
one’s life.

Reference List
Shakespeare, William. King Lear. Eric A.


McCann, ed. Harcourt Brace Jovanovick
Canada Inc., Canada. 1988.

There has been many different views on the plays of William
Shakespeare and definitions of what kind of play they were. The
two most popular would be the comedy and the tragedy. King Lear to
some people may be a comedy because they believe that the play has
been over exaggerated. Others would say King Lear was a tragedy
because there is so much suffering and chaos.


What makes a Shakespearean play a comedy or a tragedy? King
Lear would be a tragedy because it meets all the requirements of a
tragedy as defined by Andrew Cecil Bradley. Bradley states that a
Shakespearean tragedy must have to be the story of the hero and
that there is exceptional suffering and calamity slowly being worn
in as well as it being contrasted to happier times. The play also
depicts the troubled parts in his life and eventually his death
that is instantaneous caused by the suffering and calamity. There
is the feeling of fear in the play as well, that makes men see how
blind they are not knowing when fortune or something else would be
on them. The hero must be of a high status on the chain and the
hero also possesses a tragic flaw that initiates the tragedy. The
fall of the hero is not felt by him alone but creates a chain
reaction which affects everything below him. There must also be
the element of chance or accident that influences some point in the
play.


King Lear meets all of these requirements that has been laid
out by Bradley which is the most logical for a definition of a
tragedy as compared to the definition of a comedy by G. Wilson
Knight.


The main character of the play would be King Lear who in terms
of Bradley would be the hero and hold the highest position is the
social chain. Lear out of Pride and anger has banished Cordelia
and split the kingdom in half to the two older sisters, Goneril and
Regan. This is Lear’s tragic flaw which prevents him to see the
true faces of people because his pride and anger overrides his
judgement. As we see in the first act, Lear does not listen to
Kent’s plea to see closer to the true faces of his daughters. Kent
has hurt Lear’s pride by disobeying his order to stay out of his
and Cordelia’s way when Lear has already warned him, “The bow is
bent and drawn, make from the shaft.” Kent still disobeys Lear
and is banished. Because of this flaw, Lear has initiated the
tragedy by disturbing the order in the chain of being by dividing
the kingdom, banishing his best servant and daughter, and giving up
his thrown.


Due to this flaw, Lear has given way to the two older
daughters to conspire against him. Lear is finally thrown out of
his daughters home and left with a fool, a servant and a beggar.


This is when Lear realizes the mistake that he has made and suffers
the banishment of his two eldest daughters. Lear is caught in a
storm and begins to lose his sanity because he can not bear the
treatment of his two daughters as well as the error he has made
with Cordelia and Kent. Lear also suffers from rest when he is
moving all over the place and the thing that breaks him is the
death of his youngest daughter Cordelia. This suffering can be
contrasted with other happier times like when Lear was still king
and when he was not banished by his two daughters.


The feeling of fear is when Lear is in the storm raging
against the gods,
“I tax not you, you elements, with unkindness.


I never gave you kingdom, called you children,
you owe me no subscription.”,
telling them to rage harder since he has not done anything for them
and that he didn’t deserve what he has received from his two
daughters. The fear is how Lear in a short period of time went
from king to just a regular peasant and from strong and prideful to
weak and unconfident. This shows that men do not hold their own
destiny and that even though things may be great now you can be
struck down just as fast as was to Lear.


The fall of Lear is not just the suffering of one man but the
suffering of everyone down the chain. Gloucester loses his status
and eyes, Cordelia and Kent banished, and Albany realizing his
wife’s true heart. Everything that happened to these characters
are affected by Lear in one way or another and that if Lear had not
banished Cordelia and Kent then the two sisters would not be able
to plot against their father. Without the plot of the two sisters
then Gloucester would not of lost his eyes to Cornwall and his
status because he was guilty of treason.


There is an element of chance in the play in which Edgar meets
Oswald trying to kill his father because he is a traitor. Oswald
is slain asks Edgar,
“And give the letters which thou find’st about
me to Edmund Earl of Gloucester. Seek him out
upon the English party.”
Edgar finds a letter to Edmund from Goneril about the conspiracy
to kill Albany. This part in the play affects the outcome of
Goneril and Edmund in which will lead to both of their deaths.


The pain and suffering endured by Lear eventually tears down
his strength and sanity. Lear is not as strong, arrogant, and
prideful as he was in the beginning of the play instead he is weak,
scared, and a confused old man. At the end of the play Lear has
completely lost his sanity with the loss of his daughter Cordelia
and this is the thing that breaks Lear and leads to his death.


Lear dies with the knowledge that Cordelia is dead and dies as a
man in pain.


“And my poor fool is hanged! No, no, no life!
Why should a dog, a horse, a rat, have life,
And thou no breath at all? Thou’lt come no
more, never, never, never, never, never!”
King Lear has met all the requirements that Bradley has stated
as a Shakespearean tragedy. Lear has a tragic flaw which is his
pride that prevents him to see the true faces of people. He also
initiates the tragedy by the banishment of Cordelia and Kent as
well as dividing the kingdom. Lear has also suffered and endured
the pains of his error which leads to his death and which is
contrasted to that of happier times. There is the feeling of fear
in the play which is of a King losing his crown and becoming a
peasant. Lear has also created a chain reaction that affects
everything down the chain. The element of chance is also
introduced in the play with Edgar and Oswald, Oswald possessing the
letter to Edmund. And the final part is the death of King Lear
dying in suffering of the death of his daughter Cordelia.

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