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Essay/Term paper: King lear: consequences of one man's decisions

Essay, term paper, research paper:  King Lear

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King Lear: Consequences of One Man's Decisions


Shakespeare's tragedy King Lear is a detailed description of the
consequences of one man's decisions. This fictitious man is Lear, King of
England, who's decisions greatly alter his life and the lives of those around
him. As Lear bears the status of King he is, as one expects, a man of great
power but sinfully he surrenders all of this power to his daughters as a reward
for their demonstration of love towards him. This untimely abdication of his
throne results in a chain reaction of events that send him through a journey of
hell. King Lear is a metaphorical description of one man's journey through hell
in order to expiate his sin.

As the play opens one can almost immediately see that Lear begins to make
mistakes that will eventually result in his downfall. The very first words that
he speaks in the play are :-

"...Give me the map there. Know that we have divided
In three our kingdom, and 'tis our fast intent
To shake all cares and business from our age,
Conferring them on younger strengths while we
Unburdened crawl to death..."
(Act I, Sc i, Ln 38-41)

This gives the reader the first indication of Lear's intent to abdicate his
throne. He goes on further to offer pieces of his kingdom to his daughters as a
form of reward to his test of love.

"Great rivals in our youngest daughter's love,
Long in our court have made their amorous sojourn,
And here are to be answered. Tell me, my daughters
(Since now we will divest us both of rule,
Interest of territory, cares of state),
Which of you shall we say doth love us most?
That we our largest bounty may extend
where nature doth with merit challenge."
(Act I, Sc i, Ln 47-53)

This is the first and most significant of the many sins that he makes in this
play. By abdicating his throne to fuel his ego he is disrupts the great chain
of being which states that the King must not challenge the position that God has
given him. This undermining of God's authority results in chaos that tears
apart Lear's world. Leaving him, in the end, with nothing. Following this Lear
begins to banish those around him that genuinely care for him as at this stage
he cannot see beyond the mask that the evil wear. He banishes Kent, a loyal
servant to Lear, and his youngest and previously most loved daughter Cordelia.
This results in Lear surrounding himself with people who only wish to use him
which leaves him very vulnerable attack. This is precisely what happens and it
is through this that he discovers his wrongs and amends them.

Following the committing of his sins, Lear becomes abandoned and estranged
from his kingdom which causes him to loose his sanity. While lost in his grief
and self-pity the fool is introduced to guide Lear back to the sane world and to
help find the lear that was ounce lost behind a hundred Knights but now is out
in the open and scared like a little child. The fact that Lear has now been
pushed out from behind his Knights is dramatically represented by him actually
being out on the lawns of his castle. The terrified little child that is now
unsheltered is dramatically portrayed by Lear's sudden insanity and his rage and
anger is seen through the thunderous weather that is being experienced. All of
this contributes to the suffering of Lear due to the gross sins that he has
committed.

The pinnacle of this hell that is experienced be Lear in order to repay his
sins is at the end of the play when Cordelia is killed. Lear says this before
he himself dies as he cannot live without his daughter.

"Howl, howl, howl! O, you are men of stones.
Had I your tongues and eyes, I'd use them so
That heaven's vault should crack. She's gone for ever!
I know when one is dead, and when one lives.
She's dead as earth. Lend me a looking glass.
If that her breath will mist or stain the stone,
Why, then she lives."
(Act V, Sc iii, Ln 306-312)

All of this pain that Lear suffered is traced back to the single most
important error that he made. The choice to give up his throne. This one sin
has proven to have massive repercussions upon Lear and the lives of those around
him eventually killing almost all of those who were involved. And one is left
to ask one's self if a single wrong turn can do this to Lear then what difficult
corner lies ahead that may cause similar alterations in one's life.

 

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