As Shakespeare’s King Lear opens, the political conditions in Britain are precarious. Lear is an aging king, 'four score and upward', with three daughters and no male heir. Sooner or later power must be transferred. Through no man's fault, persons of extremely evil propensity were placed very close to power. This situation is an outer expression of the conditions of the social consciousness of the country. Until now Britain has been ruled by a powerful monarch who kept the country unified by his strength. There is no one of equal power to replace him. The solution which naturally suggests itself is a division into three parts, each to be ruled by a daughter and her husband and the national unity maintained by familial bonds. The change is necessitated by circumstance, but that circumstance reflects a compelling inner necessity. Something in the social consciousness is seeking to evolve beyond the limits of absolute power vested in a king. That evolution is what follows Lear's renunciation of power. All the resistances it meets, all the destruction it releases are a preparation of the consciousness and a working out of that which opposes the social progress.
As King, Lear represents in himself the conditions of the country which identifies itself with him just as he identifies himself with it. He is a man of great vital power, a commander of men, not only by virtue of his position, but by his very nature. He is generous, open and unsuspicious, though too choleric, vain, obstinate, passionate and domineering to be simply called "good". Beneath his vital personality of power lies an emotional ...
... middle of paper ...
... it is the plane of national life, therefore the intensity of consequences is very great.
Similarly Lear's curse on Cordelia for refusing to flatter him is an unpardonable offense to the consciousness of family, human relations, the bonds between father and daughter. His curse and rejection of Cordelia cancels all family bonds, all effective protection and nurturance; for, to be effective, such bonds require reciprocity. Once he cancels them, Cordelia becomes helpless to support him despite her deep wish to do so. Lear repeats the same error in his curse of Goneril who subsequently becomes the chief instrument of his suffering. Likewise the rejection of Kent is a rejection of the bonds of devoted service. Kent continues to serve but his loyalty no longer has the power to save.
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- The Tragic Hero in King Lear by Shakespeare Tragedy is defined in Websters Dictionary as: 1) A medieval narrative poem or tale typically describing the downfall of a great man 2) A serious drama typically describing a conflict between the hero and a superior force (like destiny) and having a sorrowful or disastrous conclusion that excites leaves the readers full of pity or terror. King Lear is one of William Shakespeare’s great tragic pieces; it is not only seen as a tragedy in itself, but also a play that includes two tragic heroes and four villains.... [tags: Papers]
692 words (2 pages)
- Lear's Character in William Shakespeare's Play The view of Lear being bent on his own destruction from the beginning of the play is an acceptable claim. The way he begins in the play, dividing up his country for his daughters, in essence, this spelt disaster. Unlike other renaissance dramatists, who used ‘mad scenes’ for comic use, Shakespeare seems intent on displaying madness in a more sinister portrayal.... [tags: Papers]
1208 words (3.5 pages)
- King Lear's Folly In Shakespeare's King Lear, the actions of King Lear and of his daughters bring ruin and chaos to England. Social structures crumble, foreign invaders threaten the land, and, in a distinctly non-Hollywood ending, almost everyone dies tragically. The outlook is very bleak, as many of the problems are left unresolved at the end of the play: There is no one in line to assume sovereignty, and justice and virtue have not been restored to their proper places in the country's structure.... [tags: King Lear essays]
1201 words (3.4 pages)
- The Characters of Goneril and Cordelia in King Lear Nothing makes a story like a good villain, or in this case, good villainess. They are the people we love to hate and yearn to watch burn. Goneril, of Shakespeare’s King Lear, is no exception. Her evils flamed from the very beginning of the play with her lack of sincerity in professing her love for her father: "Sir, I love you more than word can wield the matter; Dearer than eyesight, space, and liberty; Beyond what can be valued, rich or rare; No less than life, with grace, health, beauty, honour; As much as child e'er loved, or father found; A love that makes breath poor, and speech unable.... [tags: King Lear essays]
943 words (2.7 pages)
- The Tragedy of King Lear Analysis Lear: By Jupiter, I swear no. Kent: By Juno, I swear ay. In The Tragedy of King Lear, particularly in the first half of the play, Lear continually swears to the gods. He invokes them for mercies and begs them for destruction; he binds both his oaths and his curses with their names. The older characters—Lear and Gloucester—tend view their world as strictly within the moral framework of the pagan religion. As Lear expresses it, the central core of his religion lies in the idea of earthly justice.... [tags: King Lear Shakespeare Essays]
2095 words (6 pages)
- Effective Foreshadowing in King Lear The first scene of a play usually sets up the basic themes and situations that the remainder will work with. In Shakespeare’s play King Lear, the very first scene presents many of the play's basic themes and images. The recurrent imagery of human senses and of "nothing," the distortion of familial and social ties, the gradual dissolution of Lear's kingship, all make their first appearances in the first lines of Shakespeare's play. Much of the imagery in King Lear's first scene presages what is to come in the play.... [tags: King Lear essays]
1138 words (3.3 pages)
- The Tragic Redemption of King Lear Shakespeare's ultimate Tragedy, King Lear, is indeed a dark and soul-harrowing play. The tragic madness of King Lear, and of the subsequent turmoil that follows from it, is all the more terrible for the king's inability to cope with the loss of his mind, his family, and his pride. This descent into horror culminates at the tragic conclusion, where both the innocent and the guilty die for other's mistakes and lack of judgment. And yet, as bleak and grim as the final scene is, all is not lost is misery.... [tags: King Lear essays]
1637 words (4.7 pages)
- Role Reversal in King Lear King Lear, known as one of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies, deeply affects its audience by playing out the destruction of two families. At the end of this play two of the protagonists, King Lear and his loyal friend the Earl of Gloucester, die after having suffered through major injustices at the hands of their own children. These characters’ deaths are incredibly tragic because they are brought on by their own actions instead of by the circumstances that surround them.... [tags: King Lear essays]
1395 words (4 pages)
- King Lear's Self Discovery Although King Lear is an estimable monarch, as revealed by the devotion of men such as Kent, he has serious character flaws. His power as king has encouraged him to be proud and impulsive, and his oldest daughters Regan and Goneril reflect that "The best and soundest of his time hath been but rash..." and that "he hath ever but slenderly known himself" (1.1.297-298, 295-296). When Lear decides to divide his kingdom between his three daughters, Cordelia, Goneril, and Regan in order to have less responsibility in his old age, he creates a situation in which his eldest daughters gain authority over him and mistreat him. Lear is unable to cope with his los... [tags: King Lear essays]
2124 words (6.1 pages)
- King Lear King Lear of Britain has decided to abdicate his throne. In order to bestow his kingdom between his three daughters; Goneril, Regan and Cordelia he calls them together. His intentions are to split the kingdom between them based on each’s expression of love for him. The two older daughters sweetly talk their way in their father’s heart for sizable kingdoms. Cordelia however, the youngest and Lear’s favorite, sees the sinister motivations of her sisters and tells her father of her deep true feelings.... [tags: King Lear]
396 words (1.1 pages)