Essay on William Shakespeare's King Lear

Essay on William Shakespeare's King Lear

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William Shakespeare's King Lear


The locations in Shakespeare’s King Lear fall into three categories: inside a court, out in nature, and in-between nature and civilization. Lear himself also wavers between three states: sanity, senility, and the fine line between the two. These states of consciousness relate directly to the scenes’ locations. However, Lear’s insanity is not the fault of his location in the world; for the most part, he has control over his situation. The series of events in correspondence with the location show that man must acknowledge the nature he originated from and live in the civilized world, but not abandon nature all together because too much control or chaos leads to despair.

King Lear begins in Lear’s court, which, in the context of the play, is representative of the civilized world. The king relinquishes his territory, therefore abandoning control over his land. He gives his power to two of his daughters and banishes the other. Already, the natural order of Lear’s world is disrupted; he is no longer the head of his household and country and the balance of power of his choosing is upset by Cordelia’s seeming betrayal. He is far from a happy man, and lashes out at anyone who challenges him, such as Kent (1.1).

Most of the play’s onstage violence takes place in an indoor location: Edmund’s false wounding, Gloucester’s blinding and banishment, and Regan’s killing of a servant. Man is one of the only species that murders its own for reasons other than food or familial protection. Edgar kills Oswald in act four, scene six, in which the location is “near Dover” (2534), therefore not indoors, but it is in an act of defending his father, Gloucester. All the banishment, wounding, and ...


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...t and love. Gloucester died of the force of finally being able to love Edgar and the guilt of knowing he wasted so much time not doing so while Lear died of the power of finally embracing Cordelia’s love as superior to her sisters’ and the sorrow of arriving at this conclusion too late to save his daughter and live happily ever after with her. In the end, it is true that, “nothing will come of nothing” (1.1.89), but that does not mean that something will not come of something. Lear’s life, like everyone’s is, in the end, ruled by time. Edmund wants to repent his wrong doings before he dies, saying, “Some good I mean to do” (5.3.242). This is the challenge Shakespeare presents to his audience: to live in neither an indoor world of sterile civility nor an outdoor one of passionate chaos, but to find a way to “do good” somewhere in the middle while they still can.

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