Comparing Jane Smiley's A Thousand Acres and William Shakespeare's King Lear
Jane Smiley's novel A Thousand Acres is a modern version of William Shakespeare's King Lear. The tragic ideas brought out by King Lear are revisited in A Thousand Acres both containing universal themes in which societies from past to present can identify with. Tragedy is a form of drama that depicts the suffering of a heroic individual who is often overcome by the very obstacles he is struggling to remove. The novel and play each contain distinct tragic elements that lead to the development of similar characters, plot, and images but both have distinct themes. A Thousand Acres provides a new interpretation of Shakespeare's classic tragedy allowing the reader to create a unique twist to their opinions of the Lear family.
William Shakespeare's tragedy of King Lear begins with the King's decision to divide his kingdom between his three daughters. He gathers them all together, and tells them he will divide up the kingdom according to whoever has the most love for him. Goneril and Reagan, the two older daughters, make big declarations of love in order to get the shares they want of the kingdom. The youngest daughter, Cordelia, tells Lear that she loves him, as a daughter should love a father. Lear becomes angry and disappointed with Cordelia's response feeling she has shown a lack of devotion so he takes action and banishes her. When Kent, a close friend of Lear, attempts to defend Cordelia, but as well he is banished by Lear. Cordelia marries the King of France and goes to live there. The kingdom is equally divided between Goneril and Regan. These two daughters are evil and decide if Lear becomes too much of a problem then they will take d...
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... which would have prevented this tragedy. The blinding Gloucester becomes ironic because when he is blinded he is able to see that he has judged his son Edgar wrongly and it is Edmund who is evil. Similarly, in A Thousand Acres Loren the loyal son is the cause of his tragedy. Both Lear and Larry become mad after giving up their power too early. When Lear turns his kingdom over to his daughters he looses respect and power which cause him to go mad. When Larry signs his farm over to his daughters he looses control of the land and goes mad.
Works Cited and Consulted
Bradley, A.C. "King Lear." 20Lh Century Interpretations of King Lear. Ed. Jane Adelman. New Jersev; Prentice-Hall, 1978.
Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of King Lear. Ed. Russell Fraser. New York: Penguin, 1998.
Smiley, Jane. A Thousand Acres. New York: Fawcett Columbine, 1991.