King Lear is one of Shakespeare's more complex plays and within it many different themes are addressed and explored. King Lear is the somewhat unfortunate vehicle that Shakespeare uses to explore many of these themes creating a complex character including the roles of a father, king, friend and adversary.
As Lear is not a simple character he cannot simply be classed as all good or bad; it can be argued he is a bad father and king but does that make Lear a bad man? Does he deserve the suffering he endures? Also, when Lear talks of sin who is he addressing? As sin is generally defined as a violation of religious or moral law so is Lear talking to God in this speech, or is he thinking in terms of his tormentors and victims on earth?
Lear's sins as a father are quite unique and therefore difficult to analyse. First he asks his three daughters to announce their great love for him so he can reward them with shares of his kingdom, Cordellia is brutally honest with her reply and states "[I love you] according to my bond; no more no less." Lear subsequently banishes Cordellia, and so starts Lear's suffering. He then splits his kingdom between Regan and Goneril which in itself was a foolish thing to do as the responsibility and power suddenly given to these two sisters could easily corrupt them. Next he arrives at his daughter's houses with a large group of unruly k...
... middle of paper ...
...inst than sinning but this is still a hard concept to judge. What I feel is clear though is that the sins that Lear did commit he has paid for through not only suffering but through redemption. This is far more significant than a simple count of who sinned against whom, but more a measure of Lear's soul and his will to make right his wrongs. Lear's journey is complete, from a king to a man, from sinful to pure, artifice to nature. The one thing that links all of the various journeys is that they all end in death but as Lear dies, what audience could expect him to now be in hell? I think that there is little doubt that Lear will ascend to heaven, that he has paid for any sins he committed and has been redeemed.
Leonard Tennenhouse, The Theatre of Punishment 1986
R. B. Sewall, The Vision of Tragedy 1959
Arnold Kettle, Literature and Liberation: Selected Essays 1988
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)
- 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)
- 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)
- A Fool for a King in King Lear In Shakespeare's play King Lear, the main character, King Lear, is presented as a respected and powerful king. As the story progresses the king loses his power because of his own stupidity and blindness. The tragedy of this play is shown chiefly through the actions of Lear’s daughters, which lead to Lear’s bout with insanity, and through the words of the Fool. At the beginning of the play, King Lear appears as a powerful and well-loved ruler. He explains his intention to abdicate and divide his kingdom among his three daughters, giving the largest segment to the daughter who convinces him that she loves him most (Boyce 343). Goneril is the first to lie,... [tags: King Lear essays]
1077 words (3.1 pages)
- The Role of the Fool in William Shakespeare's King Lear In the play King Lear, by William Shakespeare, there are many intriguing characters. Perhaps the most intriguing of them all is the fool. The fool seems to exist outside the play appearing and disappearing without warning. The fool is, however, a necessary character to the evolution of Lear's character, since he is the personification of truth and reason. The fool serves to show Lear how he is going insane, as well as to attempt to delay this inevitability.... [tags: King Lear essays]
801 words (2.3 pages)
- The Fools in King Lear William Shakespeare's play King Lear tells the tale of the main character who divides his kingdom between his older daughters, Goeneril and Regan, and disinherits his youngest daughter, Cordelia. The action leads to civil strife, his insanity, and his ultimate death. King Lear can be viewed as a great illustration about the struggle between good and evil. Perhaps better than any of Shakespeare's other tragedies, King Lear displays the concept of evil most strongly.... [tags: King Lear essays]
880 words (2.5 pages)
- William Shakespeare's King Lear In William Shakespeare’s tragedy, King Lear,the issue of sight on many levels is a recurring theme. Throughout the play Shakespeare shows that sight does not just come from the eyes. It is shown through the characters of Lear, Gloucester and how they compare to each other. Lear’s character is one that never learns what it means to see without ones eyes. Lear’s sight is hazed because of his lack of ability to see inside of people, he can not tell who they really are.... [tags: Papers]
913 words (2.6 pages)