When one contemplates the essence of being a king, one imagines that a king would never want for anything and that his later years would be carefree. In reading King Lear, one sees a seamier side of life for a particular king. Lear draws the audience’s attention to this in Act 3 when he cries out pitifully, “I am a man / More sinned against than sinning.” Although Lear undoubtedly made a huge mistake when he divided his kingdom and banished two people who were very dear to him. However, the sins his two ungrateful daughters committed against him far outweighed the wrongs he had done to others.
After dividing the kingdom, Lear gave everything to his two elder daughters, only retaining the right to keep his title and his entourage. He and his daughters agreed that Lear and his men would stay with each daughter for one month at a time. Goneril, after housing her father for a short time, became annoyed with her father’s impulsive temper and devised a plan for getting rid of him. She ordered Oswald and the other servants to give Lear and his loyal followers no service, thereby provoking them all and giving her the opportunity to play the role of martyr: “Put on what weary negligence you please, / You and your fellows. I’d have it come to question” (I.iii.13-14). Goneril’s actions demonstrate her impatience and her selfish, cunning and vengeful nature, as she wanted Lear to live the life of a tired old man, one who would stay out of her way. In Act 1, Scene 4, Goneril complains about Lear’s impulsive behavior and constant mood swings: “And put away / These dispositions which of late transport you / From what you rightly are” (I.iii.217-219).
Telling her father what he ought to do was considered to ...
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... and his pride and honor, but also of his sanity. Lear may not have been totally innocent of all wrongdoing, but the sins committed against him were far greater than any wrongs he had done.
Shakespeare, William. King Lear. Eric A., McCann, ed. Harcourt Brace Jovanovick, Canada Inc., Canada. 1998
Bradley, A.C. Lecture IX: Macbeth . Shakespearean Tragedies: Lectures on Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth . Macmllan & Co., 1904.
Brooks, Cleanth. The Well Wrought Urn: Studies of the Structure of Poetry. London: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1947.
Curry, Walter. Shakespeare’s Philosophical Patterns. London: Mass Peter Smith, 1968.
Campbell, Lily B. Shakespeare’s Tragic Heroes, Slaves of Passion. Gloucester: Peter Smith Publisher Inc., 1973.
Knight, G. Wilson, 1949. The Wheel of Fire. Methuen & Co. Ltd.
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