King Lear By William Shakespeare

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King Lear by William Shakespeare, and A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley are both fantastic tragedies that follow a similar story arc. Although King Lear was written in 1606, and A Thousand Acres was written in 1999, they contain the same essential elements of a tragedy. Jane Smiley modeled her novel after King Lear, focusing less on Lear’s story, and more on the daughters’ stories. The story-line of both is extremely similar: a father chooses to divide his land amongst his daughters, and everything following that is a disaster. King Lear and A Thousand Acres utilize the elements of unexpected suffering, suffering that extends beyond the protagonist, and society/status to mold their stories into classic tragedies. A Thousand Acres and King Lear share the Shakespearean tragic element of unexpected suffering that follows a previously happy story. Ginny is content with the quality of her life and her husband, “...even after seventeen years of marriage, I was still pleased to see him every time he appeared” (Smiley 12). Larry is content with passing down his land, “shake all cares and business from our age,/ and put them on younger strengths” (Shakespeare I.I.41-42), as long as he still maintains his kingly respect. In each story the jovial atmosphere is interrupted when the father decides to divvy up his property. In A Thousand Acres this is only a mere bump in the road, because life goes on with only an increasing sense of tension. When Larry is present the family feels like “magnets with our northern poles pointing towards the center of the circle” (Smiley 101), which causes the tension between Larry and the family. The main shift in Ginny occurs after the division of the farm, is her relationship with her husband. Ty had always be... ... middle of paper ... ...e” (Smiley 340). Because the societal element is a modern characteristic of tragedy, it is more prevalent and skillfully used in A Thousand Acres than in King Lear. Suffering that is unexpected, extends beyond the protagonist, and in the form of society/status are elements of tragedy that link King Lear and A Thousand Acres under the same arc. On one hand, without a pleasant beginning, there would be nothing to compare the unfortunate parts of the story too, making the story appear less sad. On the other hand, a story that only follows the downfall of one character is boring, and less woeful. However, the protagonist cannot take all the blame for the demise of themselves and others, society and status play a role in the decision these crucial characters make. King Lear and A Thousand Acres contain the tragic elements that will allow them to stand the test of time.

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