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Essay/Term paper: King lear assignment

Essay, term paper, research paper:  King Lear

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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


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


And here are to be answered. Tell me, my


(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


Following the committing of his sins, Lear becomes abandoned

and estranged from his kingdom which causes him to loose insanity.

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


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 ma cause similar alterations in

one's life.

Reference List

Shakespeare, William. King Lear. Eric A.

McCann, ed. Harcourt Brace Jovanovick

Canada Inc., Canada. 1988.

There has been many different views on the plays of William

Shakespeare and definitions of what kind of play they were. The

two most popular would be the comedy and the tragedy. King Lear to

some people may be a comedy because they believe that the play has

been over exaggerated. Others would say King Lear was a tragedy

because there is so much suffering and chaos.

What makes a Shakespearean play a comedy or a tragedy? King

Lear would be a tragedy because it meets all the requirements of a

tragedy as defined by Andrew Cecil Bradley. Bradley states that a

Shakespearean tragedy must have to be the story of the hero and

that there is exceptional suffering and calamity slowly being worn

in as well as it being contrasted to happier times. The play also

depicts the troubled parts in his life and eventually his death

that is instantaneous caused by the suffering and calamity. There

is the feeling of fear in the play as well, that makes men see how

blind they are not knowing when fortune or something else would be

on them. The hero must be of a high status on the chain and the

hero also possesses a tragic flaw that initiates the tragedy. The

fall of the hero is not felt by him alone but creates a chain

reaction which affects everything below him. There must also be

the element of chance or accident that influences some point in the


King Lear meets all of these requirements that has been laid

out by Bradley which is the most logical for a definition of a

tragedy as compared to the definition of a comedy by G. Wilson


The main character of the play would be King Lear who in terms

of Bradley would be the hero and hold the highest position is the

social chain. Lear out of Pride and anger has banished Cordelia

and split the kingdom in half to the two older sisters, Goneril and

Regan. This is Lear's tragic flaw which prevents him to see the

true faces of people because his pride and anger overrides his

judgement. As we see in the first act, Lear does not listen to

Kent's plea to see closer to the true faces of his daughters. Kent

has hurt Lear's pride by disobeying his order to stay out of his

and Cordelia's way when Lear has already warned him, "The bow is

bent and drawn, make from the shaft." Kent still disobeys Lear

and is banished. Because of this flaw, Lear has initiated the

tragedy by disturbing the order in the chain of being by dividing

the kingdom, banishing his best servant and daughter, and giving up

his thrown.

Due to this flaw, Lear has given way to the two older

daughters to conspire against him. Lear is finally thrown out of

his daughters home and left with a fool, a servant and a beggar.

This is when Lear realizes the mistake that he has made and suffers

the banishment of his two eldest daughters. Lear is caught in a

storm and begins to lose his sanity because he can not bear the

treatment of his two daughters as well as the error he has made

with Cordelia and Kent. Lear also suffers from rest when he is

moving all over the place and the thing that breaks him is the

death of his youngest daughter Cordelia. This suffering can be

contrasted with other happier times like when Lear was still king

and when he was not banished by his two daughters.

The feeling of fear is when Lear is in the storm raging

against the gods,

"I tax not you, you elements, with unkindness.

I never gave you kingdom, called you children,

you owe me no subscription.",

telling them to rage harder since he has not done anything for them

and that he didn't deserve what he has received from his two

daughters. The fear is how Lear in a short period of time went

from king to just a regular peasant and from strong and prideful to

weak and unconfident. This shows that men do not hold their own

destiny and that even though things may be great now you can be

struck down just as fast as was to Lear.

The fall of Lear is not just the suffering of one man but the

suffering of everyone down the chain. Gloucester loses his status

and eyes, Cordelia and Kent banished, and Albany realizing his

wife's true heart. Everything that happened to these characters

are affected by Lear in one way or another and that if Lear had not

banished Cordelia and Kent then the two sisters would not be able

to plot against their father. Without the plot of the two sisters

then Gloucester would not of lost his eyes to Cornwall and his

status because he was guilty of treason.

There is an element of chance in the play in which Edgar meets

Oswald trying to kill his father because he is a traitor. Oswald

is slain asks Edgar,

"And give the letters which thou find'st about

me to Edmund Earl of Gloucester. Seek him out

upon the English party."

Edgar finds a letter to Edmund from Goneril about the conspiracy

to kill Albany. This part in the play affects the outcome of

Goneril and Edmund in which will lead to both of their deaths.

The pain and suffering endured by Lear eventually tears down

his strength and sanity. Lear is not as strong, arrogant, and

prideful as he was in the beginning of the play instead he is weak,

scared, and a confused old man. At the end of the play Lear has

completely lost his sanity with the loss of his daughter Cordelia

and this is the thing that breaks Lear and leads to his death.

Lear dies with the knowledge that Cordelia is dead and dies as a

man in pain.

"And my poor fool is hanged! No, no, no life!

Why should a dog, a horse, a rat, have life,

And thou no breath at all? Thou'lt come no

more, never, never, never, never, never!"

King Lear has met all the requirements that Bradley has stated

as a Shakespearean tragedy. Lear has a tragic flaw which is his

pride that prevents him to see the true faces of people. He also

initiates the tragedy by the banishment of Cordelia and Kent as

well as dividing the kingdom. Lear has also suffered and endured

the pains of his error which leads to his death and which is

contrasted to that of happier times. There is the feeling of fear

in the play which is of a King losing his crown and becoming a

peasant. Lear has also created a chain reaction that affects

everything down the chain. The element of chance is also

introduced in the play with Edgar and Oswald, Oswald possessing the

letter to Edmund. And the final part is the death of King Lear

dying in suffering of the death of his daughter Cordelia. 

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