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King Lear

Essay by   •  February 4, 2011  •  Coursework  •  4,339 Words (18 Pages)  •  1,089 Views

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Coursework, King Lear

In Shakespeare's King Lear, Lear changes dramatically from Act 1, scene 1 to Act 4, scene 7. Lear. On the surface, starts with a simple and detached character which we cannot feel emphatic for but we start to emphasise with Lear as we learn more of his character and we feel sympathetic towards him when we find out that those he trusted betrayed him. While in the first scene, Lear is more alienated and superior and we do not really connect with his character. We can see the importance of Lear's decisions and that of Lear himself as he and his actions are the pivot around which the plot revolves around, all the events are caused by Lear's choice to divide his kingdom. In the play we see the idea of blindness and not seeing, be that truth or events in motion, the cause of the bad decisions, Albany doesn't see what his wife plans, Gloucester is blinded and most importantly Lear is blind to the affection of Cordelia. These are what lead to the tragedy but Lear needed a change of stature and emotions changes to see this. In the play, Lear is abused and this drives him to realise himself, we see him having a change of heart between the two scenes that changes his views on other characters and of himself.

When we are first introduced to Lear we see him as being powerful and in control, everyone does as he says." Attend the lords" for example is the first thing he says, and that being a command shows us that he is used to giving commands and having them obeyed. The idea of the power increases as we find out more about Lear, he refers to himself as "we" this is the royal we, this tells us Lear is a regal and formal king. Lear says "our age" this is good symbolism as he talks of "we" and "our" also while he talks of kingdom this is as if as in Lear is the embodiment of the kingdom and the life of the current age. This hints to us the conclusion in the last line of the play "we the young shall never see so much" which suggests the end of an age, which comes with the death of Lear. The play is based on an old folktale of King Lier who was supposed to live in the dark ages, this symbolism hints at the life of Lear and that it has been one of holding and that he was the most important king of that age. Shakespeare could have done this to show that the previous monarch. Queen Elizabeth the first was a greater age passing away and in a way this was right as the age of the Tudors were over with Queen Elizabeth and King James was a related but different family just as the only character left at the end Edgar is not the son of Lear. This shows Shakespeare's view on resent changes of kings, yet Shakespeare was not trying to insult James by the play as in the play he describes the folly of division and James was trying to unite Scotland and England (as he was kings of both he created a "united kingdom") this was supposed to be complimentary.

Others saw Lear as a figure of terror and fear as when Lear banishes Kent and Cordelia, no one speaks up for them even though Gloucester, in scene 2 soliloquy, certainly feels Lear has done wrong, "Kent banished thus...all this done upon the gad". Lear often invokes the gods and swears by the gods in the play, "by Apollo" and "in Jupiter's name", this is a power display Lear is showing that he can call on the gods to help him and as no other character actually swears by the gods in anger, it gives an insight to the anger of King Lear. In the early parts of the play, this is seen in Lear's fiery temper which, when enticed, is very dangerous to those around him due to his power. "On thy life no more" shows us that Lear is willing to kill anyone who defies him (and he tries to) just because he is spoken badly off. Kent refers to himself as Lear's "physician" we see that Kent is close to Lear and if he is willing to do this to someone close then he must be much more cruel to others.

There is venom in the tactics Lear uses; Lear tries to dissuade Cornelia's suitors by calling her a "wench whom nature is asham'd". He then goes from calling France "you grace" to "be gone without grace" this insults France for choosing Cornelia and is trying to shame him into reconsidering especially as he goes onto call Burgundy "noble". He obviously favoured France previously as he addresses Burgundy as "lord" but France as "great king" this makes the situation so much pettier and tells us that Lear is very childlike in nature.

The other characters in the first scene Lear is seen in a light of fear and reverence as they address him as "lord" and "liege". We also get the idea that the other characters think Lear to be insecure. At the beginning Kent and Gloucester talks of how they think Lear plans to divide the kingdom and they think the major factor would have been "which of the dukes he values most" (but they think that the dukes are evenly matched) but in truth Lear decides by his daughters not by the dukes. Lear's insecurity seems to scare some characters as Goneril and Regan fears for how long their power will last as if Lear continues to use his power "with such disposition as he has" that he might change his decision and thus his "last surrender" will "offend" them. The dukes, Albany and Cornwall, are very cautious around him and after they, after stopping him from attacking Kent, say "dear sir, forbear" as if saying sorry for stopping him killing someone. Cordelia seems to be closest to Lear as Lear states that he "loved her most" telling us that he was close to her. Cordelia thought that she knew him and his emotions as she says to herself "love and be silent" this shows that she thought that Lear knew who loved him most in his feelings, but Lear does not know himself so he does not make the correct decision. Goneril and Regan, on the other hand, are much more cunning then Cordelia as they manipulate their father using impossible things such as loving him more then "eye-sight", "liberty" and even "health". This makes Lear happy but also shows us his blindness of thought.

He is also physically shown as more powerful then the other characters, for example in the Laurence Olivier version, Lear is shown in purple, a royal colour in Rome and the film is set in the dark ages just after Romans left in a time where culture was effected by the Romans, and this is emphasized more as all the other characters (except for the daughters) wear dull clothes. Lear is also sat on a position that shows his power, in the Olivier version he is situated on a throne, in the

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