One of the reasons why Shakespeare is so thoroughly read today is because of his ability to portray human nature so accurately through his characters. Shakespeare's play, King Lear shows us that humans are treacherous and selfish. We can also relate to the play because of the family issues that Shakespeare incorporates throughout the work. Lear's family is definitely a dysfunctional one. However, the disrupted family unit is the basis for the play's tragedy. The Contemporary Guide to Literary Terms defines tragedy as "a piece of writing that inspires fear or pity, through which the audience/reader experiences catharsis" (a purging of emotions). Tragic plots should have a clear beginning, middle and end that all involve the protagonist in some way. It is essential in this play for King Lear to have serious family problems in order for him to become a tragic hero. The whole premise of the plot is based on his conniving daughters (with help from Lear's ego). These family problems turn Lear into a tragic hero. Much the same could be said about Gloucester, which will also be examined in this paper.
It is universally agreed that the primary source for the story of King Lear and his daughters was the anonymous earlier play known as The True Chronicle History of King Leir (usually abbreviated to King Leir or just Leir), which was not published until 1605 but was probably performed in 1594 or earlier (Thompson, 13). Shakespeare's King Lear is a detailed description of the consequences of one's man actions, and the behavior of his family. Lear is the king of England in this play, who decides to distribute his kingdom amongst his three daughters...
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...otagonist in the work who suffers great emotional and physical pain, which the reader/audience can identify and sympathize with. This hero must also suffer and/or die, which is unacceptable but inevitable. King Lear is such a hero, the result of both egocentrism and family problems.
Frey, C. Experiencing Shakespeare. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1988.
Granville-Barker, H. Prefaces to Shakespeare. London: B.T. Batsford INC, 1984.
Halio, J. The Tragedy of King Lear. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992.
Kimbrough, R. Shakespeare and the Art of Human Kindness. NJ: Humanities Press
Thompson, A. King Lear Criticism. NJ: Humanities Press International, 1988.
Vickers, B. Appropriating Shakespeare. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993.
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