Satisfying, hopeful, and redemptive: some critics would say that these adjectives belong nowhere near a description of King Lear. One critic, Thomas Roche, even states that the play’s ending is “as bleak and unrewarding as man can reach outside the gates of hell” (164). Certainly, Roche’s pessimistic interpretation has merit; after all, Lear has seen nearly everyone he once cared for die before dying himself. Although this aspect of the play is true, agreeing with this negative view requires a person to believe that Lear learns nothing and that he suffers and dies in vain. Indeed, this is exactly what Roche believes when he states that at the play’s end, “Lear still cannot tell good from evil . . . or true from false” (164). This nihilistic approach, however, not only disregards many of the play’s moments of philosophical insight, but it also completely misinterprets Shakespeare’s intent. That is not to say that Lear is without fault at the end of the play; as Shakespeare surely understood, Lear is still human, and as such, he is subject to human frailty. What is most important about Lear, however, is not that he dies a flawed man but that he dies an improved man. Therefore, although King Lear might first appear “bleak,” Shakespeare suggests that Lear’s life, and human life in general, is worth all of its misery because it is often through suffering that people gain knowledge about the true nature of their individual selves and about the nature of all humanity (Roche 164).
From the very beginning of the play, Shakespeare suggests that King Lear has much to learn. As Maynard Mack explains in his essay “Action and World in King Lear,” the reader/audience is immediate...
... middle of paper ...
...retations of King Lear. Ed. Janet Adelman. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1978. 22-33.
Jorgensen, Paul A. Lear’s Self-Discovery. Berkeley: 1967.
Kott, Jan. “King Lear or Endgame” Shakespeare: Our Contemporary. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1974. 127-168.
Mack, Maynard. “Action and World in Shakespeare.” Shakespeare’s Middle Tragedies. Ed. David Young. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1993. 169-184.
Roche, Thomas P. “‘Nothing Almost Sees Miracles’: Tragic Knowledge in King Lear.” Critical Essays on Shakespeare’s King Lear. Ed. Jay Halio. New York: G.K. Hall & Co., 1996.
Shakespeare, William. King Lear. Ed. Russell Fraser. The Signet Classic Shakespeare. Sylvan Barnet, gen ed. 2nd rev. ed. New York: Signet, 1998.
---. Othello. Ed. Alvin Kernan. The Signet Classic Shakespeare. Sylvan Barnet, gen ed. 2nd rev. ed. New York, Signet, 1998.
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- Justice in William Shakespeare's King Lear The question of the origin of true, virtuous, and impartial justice has plagued mankind over the millennia and continues to do so today. In Shakespeare’s King Lear two potential forms of justice predominate: human examination through trial and divine supernatural recourse. Both systems emerge fundamentally flawed in practice, however, and by the end of the play a world of unjust chaos reigns supreme. Over the course of three “trials,” Lear’s daughters competing for his love, the blinding of Gloucester by Cornwall and Regan, and Lear’s imagined cross-examination of Goneril and Regan, Shakespeare strikingly illustrates the concept that human justice... [tags: William Shakespeare King Lear Essays]
1040 words (3 pages)
- Folly in William Shakespeare's King Lear In "East Coker," T. S. Eliot pleads "Do not let me hear / Of the wisdom of old men, but rather of their folly…." (Eliot 185) The folly of old men must surely be a central trope in any discussion of Shakespeare's imposing tragic accomplishment, King Lear. Traditional interpretations of the play, drawing on the classical Aristotelian theory of tragedy, have tended to view Lear's act of blind folly as hamartia, precipitating the disintegration of human society.... [tags: William Shakespeare The Tragedy of King Lear]
2870 words (8.2 pages)
- Tragedy Through Misreading in William Shakespeare's King Lear Shakespeare’s tragedy, King Lear, portrays many important misconceptions which result in a long sequence of tragic events. The foundation of the story revolves around two characters, King Lear and Gloucester, and concentrates on their common flaw, the inability to read truth in other characters. For example, the king condemns his own daughter after he clearly misreads the truth behind her “dower,”(1.1.107) or honesty. Later, Gloucester passes judgment on his son Edgar based on a letter in which he “shall not need spectacles”(1.2.35) to read.... [tags: William Shakespeare King Lear Essays]
976 words (2.8 pages)
- The play “King Lear” written by William Shakespeare can be told in many different types of literature theories such as the Feminist theory which consist of describing the differences between men and women, or the Marxist approach which includes the art, literature and ideologies. I chose to do the Psychoanalytic or Freudian theory as it is often called which is another form of literature theory. The Psychoanalytic theory is very similar to the Formalist approach. This theory encompasses essentially on two almost contradictory critical theories.... [tags: feminist theory, conflicts]
1090 words (3.1 pages)
- Lessons in King Lear by William Shakespeare Satisfying, hopeful, and redemptive: some critics would say that these adjectives belong nowhere near a description of King Lear. One critic, Thomas Roche, even states that the play’s ending is “as bleak and unrewarding as man can reach outside the gates of hell” (164). Certainly, Roche’s pessimistic interpretation has merit; after all, Lear has seen nearly everyone he once cared for die before dying himself. Although this aspect of the play is true, agreeing with this negative view requires a person to believe that Lear learns nothing and that he suffers and dies in vain.... [tags: King Lear Shakespeare Essays]
3490 words (10 pages)
- 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 t... [tags: Shakespeare Play King Lear Essays]
1567 words (4.5 pages)
- Madness in William Shakespeare's King Lear In his play, King Lear, Shakespeare introduces many themes. The most important theme is that of madness, which is portrayed, during the course of this play, by the tragic hero, King Lear. Though Lear shows great egotism at the beginning of the play, he actually begins to show signs of madness in Acts 3 and 4. In these acts, King Lear is shown spiraling into madness and then eventually regaining his sanity. Shakespeare develops his madness theme through several phases. In the first phase, Lear's madness is shown through his strange conversations and the tearing off of his garments; in the second phase, Lear is shown em... [tags: King Lear essays Shakespeare]
977 words (2.8 pages)
- Tragic Figures - Good/Evil in King Lear King Lear, by William Shakespeare, is a tragic tale of filial conflict, personal transformation, and loss. The story revolves around the King who foolishly alienates his only truly devoted daughter and realizes too late the true nature of his other two daughters. A major subplot involves the illegitimate son of Gloucester, Edmund, who plans to discredit his brother Edgar and betray their father. With these and other major characters in the play, Shakespeare clearly asserts that human nature is either entirely good, or entirely evil. Some characters experience a transformative phase, where, by some trial or ordeal, their nature is profoun... [tags: King Lear essays]
1336 words (3.8 pages)
- Importance of Nothing in William Shakespeare's King Lear The Tragedy of King Lear has many important themes. One major theme concerns "nothing." The main focus around the discussion of "nothing" is that "nothing" is a many things. Nothing is what binds everything. The first mention of "nothing" is when King Lear asks his daughters to profess how much they love him. The eldest daughters shower compliments upon him tickling his ears. Yet the Lear's favorite daughter Cordelia will only speak the truth.... [tags: King Lear essays William Shakespeare]
588 words (1.7 pages)
- The Selfish King in Shakespeare's King Lear In Shakespeare's King Lear a king is stripped of his land, wealth, soldiers, and all of his power because he is stubborn, egocentric, and unkind. Other than losing money and power he loses his three daughters as well. Lear?s pride is so overwhelming that he is unwilling to allow anyone to contradict him. If anyone (besides his fool) even remotely hints that his actions were wrong he gets unnecessarily enraged.... [tags: King Lear William Shakespeare Tragedies]
1012 words (2.9 pages)