King LearKing lear Assignment
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
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
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
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.