William Shakespeare 's King Lear

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William Shakespeare’s tragic masterpiece King Lear is as rich in plot as it is in language. Goneril and Regan’s plot against their father is placed at the forefront of the action, while the subplots of Edmund’s agenda against his father and brother intertwine with Lear’s deterioration into madness. While family drama dominates the action, it is easy to demote the Duke of Albany as a background character. However, as the play progresses towards the climax, Albany emerges from his wife’s shadow and asserts himself as an ally to Lear and is one of the only characters to instill a sense of justice. While Albany seems to be characterized solely as “Goneril’s husband” in the first few acts, he reveals the complexity of his character by turning against his wife, feeling sympathetic towards Lear, and thereby proving his morality and desire for justice. In the first act of King Lear, Albany’s true intentions and identity are indistinguishable. He appears in the first scene as Lear commands his daughters to tell him how much they love him, but Albany is present out of duty and barely utters a word. However, Shakespeare may have minutely foreshadowed Albany’s moral superiority over Cornwall, Goneril, and Regan with the very first line of the play. Kent and Gloucester enter the stage mid-conversation as they discuss Lear’s distribution of land. Kent states, “I thought the King had more affected the Duke of Albany than Cornwall” (V.i.1-2). While apparently a small detail at the time, Kent believes Lear is fonder of Albany than he is of Cornwall, a foreshadowing of Cornwall’s defiance of Lear and Albany’s support of the king. The separation of the heroes and villains of the play is very distinctive. Lear’s fondness of Albany can be reason to as... ... middle of paper ... ...s. After Lear dies, the only characters that remain alive are Edgar, Kent, and Albany. While Edgar and Kent’s morality and purity has been constant and evident throughout the play, Albany has had to prove his integrity by defying his wife and allies along with asserting his opposition to the cruelty imposed upon Lear. The journey of the Duke of Albany in King Lear can be defined as a journey from passive to active, a move from the shadows into the spotlight. In the opening scenes, Albany is seen as a submissive and weak man. However, his introduction as a background character soon proves false, as he becomes an assertive leader and character known for voicing his ideals. These ideals include justice, and as a result of his journey into becoming a dynamic character, he is able to enact some form of justice and sense of order upon a desiccated and disheartened kingdom.

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