Free King Lear Essays: King Lear as a Tragic Hero

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Most critics of King Lear take the position that he was a tragic hero. However, there are critics who believe that he might be a comic figure. This paper attempts to discuss whether King Lear is a tragic hero or not, looking at the works of two critics, each taking opposite sides. On the one hand, there is A.C. Bradley, who takes the position that King Lear is a tragic hero because he demonstrates all the characteristics of a tragic hero as Bradley saw it. On the other hand, G. Wilson Knight believes that the play King Lear is really a comedy of the grotesque, and that King Lear is really a comic figure. The position that I am taking is this paper is that King Lear is a tragic hero, because he fits all the characteristics that Bradley identifies as belonging to a tragic hero, and more than that although there might appear to be comic elements in the play King Lear that the tragic element seem to outweigh the comic. Therefore, the position taken by Knight is not accurate in describing King Lear. The tragic hero, according to Bradley, is a person who suffers tremendously, whose suffering goes beyond him. The tragic hero also takes the action that produces the suffering and calamity which leads to death. Other characteristics of a tragic hero are as follows. The tragic hero is a person who is of high degree, and his welfare is intimately tied up with the welfare of the state. The hero is an exceptional being, of high degree, whose actions and sufferings are of an unusual kind, who possesses and exceptional nature. His nature is exceptional in the sense that it is very much like our nature, except that it is intensified. The tragic hero is also involved in conflict, which could be either conflict with someone else, or conflict within himself. The tragic hero is also described as inspiring pity on the part of the viewer because of the intensity of the suffering that the tragic hero is undergoing. Furthermore, the tragic hero is seen as wretched, nevertheless, the audience does not see him as contemptible. Instead, the audience sees the

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