Lear's Character in William Shakespeare's Play

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Lear's Character in William Shakespeare's Play

The view of Lear being bent on his own destruction from the beginning

of the play is an acceptable claim. The way he begins in the play,

dividing up his country for his daughters, in essence, this spelt

disaster. Unlike other renaissance dramatists, who used ‘mad scenes’

for comic use, Shakespeare seems intent on displaying madness in a

more sinister portrayal.

In favour of the claim, much can be said. In his thought process of

dividing up his kingdom, it would appear, that nothing went through

his mind to make him question what he was doing. When the audience,

and indeed the characters first formally hear of the division of the

country, Lear says,

‘…’tis our fast intent to shake all cares and business from our age’

here, and later on in his speech, Lear says that the responsibility of

the nation must be transferred to younger shoulders, and that those of

the older generations should wait, and crawl to their death. To the

audience, as indeed to later analysers of the play, this may have been

an early indicator to what was going to happen later in the play. The

fact that Lear says that the country should be divided, the

responsibilities taken from the shoulders of the elder generation, and

that the elder generation should wait and crawl to their death, is

mildly disturbing, considering he was the king. The thought processes

needed to muster a decision like this, must have been made by one

under either considerable strain, or one of a limited mental capacity.


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owner. The relationship of the Fool and Lear is a refreshing break

among the anguish that is endured in this play, what with Gloucester’s

savage torture, fair Cordelia’s banishment and the general darkness of

the poem.

According to the work of the Greek Philosopher Aristotle, horror and

pity are the two emotions that the audience should feel when watching

a tragedy. These two emotions are certainly expressed in King Lear,

mainly from the Madness of Lear. It is an interesting and difficult

concept, to say that Lear’s character is bent on his own destruction

from the outset of the play, but for one to generate opinion, one must

be able to distinguish between Lear’s ‘Sane’ and ‘Mad’ portrayal. Is

he just mad anyway, or do the actions throughout the play remove his

mind and replace it with the mind of a wildcat.
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