The Tragic Hero in King Lear by Shakespeare

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The Tragic Hero in King Lear by Shakespeare Tragedy is defined in Websters Dictionary as: 1) A medieval narrative poem or tale typically describing the downfall of a great man 2) A serious drama typically describing a conflict between the hero and a superior force (like destiny) and having a sorrowful or disastrous conclusion that excites leaves the readers full of pity or terror. King Lear is one of William Shakespeare’s great tragic pieces; it is not only seen as a tragedy in itself, but also a play that includes two tragic heroes and four villains. I felt that a tragic hero must not be all good or all bad, but he must be deprived of something very valuable because of some critical mistake, or error in judgment. We must be able to identify ourselves with the tragic hero if he is to inspire fear, for we must feel that what happens to him could happen to us. If Lear was completely evil, we would not be fearful of what happens to him: he would merely be repulsive. But Lear does inspire fear because, like us, he is not completely upright, nor is he completely wicked. He is foolish and arrogant, it is true, but later he is also humble and compassionate. He is wrathful, but at times, patient. Because of his good qualities, we experience pity for him and feel that he does not deserve the severity of his punishment. His actions are not brought on by any corruption or wickedness in him, but by an error in judgment, which, however, does arise from a defect of character. Lear has a tragic flaw: egotism. It is his egotism in the first scene that causes him to make his error in judgment - the division of his kingdom and the loss of Cordelia. Throughout the rest of the play, the consequences of this error slowly and steadfastly increase until Lear is destroyed. There must be a change in the life of the tragic hero; he must pass from happiness to misery. Lear, as seen in Act I, has everything a man should want - wealth, power, peace, and a state of well-being. Because a tragic character must pass from happiness to misery, he must be seen at the beginning of the play as a happy man, surrounded by good fortune.

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