Analyzing Shakespeare´s Account of Human Nature in King Lear in Comparison With Other Authors

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Human nature is a concept that has interested scholars throughout history. Many have debated over what human nature is – that is, the distinguishing characteristics that are unique to humans by nature – while others have mulled over the fact that the answer to the question “what is human nature?” may be unattainable or simply not worth pursuing. Shakespeare explores the issue of human nature in his tragedy King Lear. In his play, he attempts to portray that human nature is either entirely good or entirely evil. He seems to suggest, however, that it is not impossible for one to move from one end of the spectrum of human nature to the other, as multiple characters go through somewhat of a metamorphosis where their nature is changed. In this paper I analyze and present Shakespeare’s account of human nature in King Lear in comparison with other authors that we have read throughout our year in the Aquinas program. Let us begin by looking at the role of human nature in King Lear more closely. It is clear from the beginning of King Lear that Cordelia has an entirely good nature, she remains constant throughout the play, never wavering in her morals. The play begins with Lear deciding that he will have his daughters compete for their divisions of his kingdoms based on which of them can impress him the most with their proclamations of love. Cordelia, however, cannot express her love for her father in words, and refuses to deceive him by doing otherwise, stating that she is “sure [her] love's more richer than [her] tongue” (1.1.78-80). She realizes that by holding her tongue she is infuriating her father, but her nature cannot allow her to do otherwise. When King Lear asks her what she has to say, she states “Nothing, my lord” (1.1.86). A... ... middle of paper ... ...ed political animals, show me a man or woman raised by wolves and I will show you something that is not human. That being said, Aristotle’s argument for reason has suffered a few academic blows. Science has now proven that there are indeed other animals capable of reason, such as apes and dolphins. The extent to which these beings can reason, however, has yet to be seen. In conclusion, it remains that, even after being around for over 2000 years, Aristotle’s philosophy on human nature remains one of the most accurate questions to the eternal question of “what is human nature?” It may not, in the end, prove to be the correct answer to the question, in fact, it may very well be possible that there is no definite answer possible. But until scholars and students in programs such as ours can find a suitable replacement, his analysis will remain superior to all others.

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