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Elizabethan Society Exposed in King Lear Essay

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Blood gushing from stabbed eyes. Sipping poison slipped by one’s very own sister. Fathers turning against their sons. Such are the horrid outcomes of the characters in King Lear. Shakespeare has written one of the greatest tragedies of all time with this play and from the very start, has provided no cushion of happiness for his viewers. They are immediately thrust into a world of turmoil-Lear’s favorite daughter is banished by him, Gloucester is deceived by his younger son, Lear is sent into a storm by his ungrateful heirs…and the list goes on. Yet, what is it that causes these wretched consequences? Is it because there are many diabolical personalities in the play? Many mistakes made by fathers in disbelieving their trustworthy children? No. The answer is that society is ultimately responsible for the end results of the play. The world of King Lear demonstrates for the audience, by illustrating with its various characters and their doings that a society built around a social hierarchy and material wealth will always be a place of unhappiness, filled with people committing wicked actions.

Shakespeare scribbled King Lear away between the years 1603 and 1606. This was a tumultuous time because Queen Elizabeth I had died but had left no heir and no husband to seize her monarchy. Therefore, the citizens were worried and the competition for her regency was strong. In writing the play, Shakespeare broached this uneasy topic by creating the character King Lear, who is unsure of whom to pass down his power too. Thus, Shakespeare builds a setting with many of the current concerns and problems of his Elizabethan world (yet they are approached in a disguised manner). This time period in England was one where...


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...me blind while if the sisters had never stolen their father’s trust, he would never have gone crazy, Goneril would never have poisoned Regan and committed suicide and Cordelia would not have died. Thus, the tragic parts in the tragedy would not exist just as a world without the unhappiness would be happy.




Works Cited

“King Lear: Background on Shakespeare.” PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 20 Jan. 2014.
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Signet Classic Edition Teacher’s Guide. Hern, Leigh Ann; Ellis, W. Gieger; Reed, Aretha J. S. (co-eds.), Penguin. Web

Shakespeare, William, Barbara A. Mowat, and Paul Werstine. The Tragedy of King Lear. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2009. Print.

“The Stucture of Elizabethan Society.” Walter Nelson. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Jan. 2014.
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