King Lear as a Commentary on Greed

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King Lear as a Commentary on Greed

In Chapter 4 of a book titled Escape from Freedom, the famous American psychologist Erich Fromm wrote that "Greed is a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy the need without ever reaching satisfaction" (Fromm 98). Fromm realized that avarice is one of the most powerful emotions that a person can feel, but, by its very nature, is an emotion or driving force that can never be satisfied. For, once someone obtains a certain goal, that person is not satisfied and continues to strive for more and more until that quest leads to their ultimate destruction. For this reason, authors have embraced the idea of greed in the creation of hundreds of characters in thousands of novels. Almost every author has written a work centered around a character full of avarice. Ian Fleming's Mr. Goldfinger, Charles Dickens' Scrooge, and Thomas Hardy's John D'Urberville are only a few examples of this attraction. But, perhaps one of the best examples of this is found in William Shakespeare's King Lear. Edmund, through his speech, actions, and relationships with other characters, becomes a character consumed with greed to the point that nothing else matters except for the never-ending quest for status and material possessions.

Edmund, the bastard son of Gloucester, embodies the idea of avarice from the very beginning of the play almost until the end. In fact, Edmund seems to become more and more greedy as the production progresses. When Edmund is first introduced in person on stage, after a short exposition of his character by Gloucester and Kent in the first scene, the audience immediately finds Edmund engaged in a plot to strip his father's inheritance from his...

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...gain his freedom from this addiction. And only through his life and death does Shakespeare paint a picture to which anyone can relate and a picture on which everyone must act.

Works Cited and Consulted

"Fromm, Erich." The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations. CD-ROM. New York: Columbia UP, 1998.

Harbage, Alfred. " King Lear: An Introduction." Shakespeare: The Tragedies: A Collection of Critical Essays.

Englewood: Prentice-Hall, 1964: 113-22.

Knight, Wilson. "King Lear and the Comedy of the Grotesque." Shakespeare: The Tragedies: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood:

Prentice-Hall, 1964: 123-38.

Shakespeare, William. King Lear. New York: Scholastic, 1970.

Shakespeare, William. "King Lear: A Conflated Text." The Norton Shakespeare. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. New York:

W.W. Norton & Co., 1997. 2479-2553.
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