King Lear and the Theme of Tragedy

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A tragedy is a genre typically defined as a play that deals with a series of events that lead to the downfall of the hero. Written between 1604 and 1606, ‘King Lear’ falls into this genre of tragedy, depicting the destruction and demise of the main character (Abrams). The play centres on Lear, an aging king who, in his retirement, decides to divide his kingdom between his three daughters while retaining the title and privileges of being king. However, King Lear’s actions lead to the destruction of his family, tearing up his kingdom and creating a war. ‘King Lear’ is a tragedy as it follows the codes and conventions generally associated with the genre. The hero and main protagonist, King Lear is an influential, highborn character whose fatal flaw leads to his demise (Shakespeare.nuvvo.com). It is Lear’s character in combination with the themes of conflict, power, family and forgiveness that make ‘King Lear’ a tragedy. ‘King Lear’ is a character driven play. As the main character, it is Lear’s decisions that affect those around him. Lear himself is stubborn, proud and is often blind to the truth. Because of this, it is made clear that Lear values appearance over reality, thus showing how the character and flaws of the character contribute to and further the conflict within the play (A TEACHER’S GUIDE TO THE SIGNET CLASSIC EDITION OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE’S KING LEAR). One of the biggest scenes that supports this is at the end of act two, scene four where Lear is driven to breaking point by the cruelties of Goneril and Regan. Lear rages against them, explaining that their attempts to take away his knights and his servants hurt him. O, reason not the need! Our basest beggars Are in the poorest thing superfluous. Allow not nature more... ... middle of paper ... ...HER’S GUIDE TO THE CLASSIC EDITION OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE’S KING LEAR). It is their greed, however, that brings about their downfall. Their desire for power is fulfilled, but both harbor sexual need for Edmund, which terminates their alliance and eventually leads them to destroy each other. These loyalties and these ties are causes of the extensive treachery displayed in ‘King Lear’ all in turn leading to the downfall of King Lear himself, thus appropriately labelling this play as a tragedy. King Lear’ falls into the genre of tragedy, depicting the destruction and downfall of the king and his three daughters. The play follows the codes and conventions generally associated with the genre and it is through Lear’s character in combination with the cunning deceit of his two eldest daughters that set in play the themes of conflict, power, family and forgiveness.
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