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Imprisonment in Shakespeare's King Lear Essay

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Imprisonment in King Lear

 
   In the play King Lear, by William Shakespeare, the idea of imprisonment is fundamental to the plot and central ideas. All characters are imprisoned, whether it is physically, socially or psychologically. Each character suffers 'imprisonment' in some form.

 

King Lear is one of the more caged characters of the play, he suffers both social and psychological incarceration and this is one the chief reasons for his descent into mental hell and inevitable downfall. Lear is imprisoned by the role he must play in society and by his own internal shackles. The abdication of the throne initiates the action in the play, through the consequent chain of events. However this indicates that Lear is imprisoned by his responsibility to society, a social harness binds him. He renounces the throne to lead the rest of his life in pleasure and in doing so he disrupts the Great Chain of Being, he challenges the position that he has been given and thus his family and indeed the entire nation, descend into disorder and chaos. The storm is symbolic of this occurrence; the weather imitates the state of men. "One minded like the weather," the gentle man recognizes the disquiet and unrest of the storm, as a manifestation of the turbulence in Society at the time. He is not only responsible for the harmony of a nation, it is also his duty to maintain harmony in his house. This he does with little success when "bribes" his daughters to fuel his own ego. "Which of you shall we say doth love us most,/That we our largest bounty extend," Lear is requesting his daughters to compete in a "game" of words, he does not really wish to know who loves him the most, he simply wishes to be flattered, through this he is rashly aba...


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Bevington, David, "Introduction to King Lear."  The Complete

Works of William  Shakespeare.  New York:  HarperCollins, 1992.

 

Elton, William R. King Lear and the Gods.  San Marino, California:

The Huntington Library, 1966.

 

Halio, Jay.  " King Lear's Imprisonment." Shakespeare Quarterly 67

(1999):  221-3. 

 

Hoover, Claudette.  "Women, Centaurs, and Devils in

King Lear."  Women's Studies 16 (1989):  349-59.

 

Jackson, Ken. "Review of Judy Kronenfeld, King Lear and the Naked Truth." Early Modern Literary Studies 6.2 (September, 2000): 10.1-5 <URL: http://purl.oclc.org/emls/06-2/jackrev.htm>.

 

Leggattt, Alexander.  King Lear.  Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1988.

 

Shakespeare, William.  King Lear.  The Complete Works of Shakespeare.

Ed. David  Bevington.  New York:  HarperCollins, 1999


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