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Theme of Opposites Within King Lear

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Ah, King Lear, one of Shakespeare's most famous tragedies and a pox upon history students everywhere. Kidding! Anyway, while the play had a great many motifs to be considered, one of the most central was the theme of opposites. Not only between characters can we see this theme manifest, but within characters as well, as a few of them turn from people of stature to beggars and the banished, and from villains to heroes.

Firstly, quite a few characters in the story have counterparts that are the polar opposites of them. Look at Goneril and Regan's husband: Cornwall, Regan's man, is willing to kill her father in his desire for power, while Goneril's husband Albany is aiming to save the king and restore peace. Lear's youngest daughter is the honest and virtuous one, as opposed to Lear's buddy Gloucester's youngest kid, who is wicked and conniving. The same division appears between Edgar and Edmund, which parallels Lear's two oldest daughters and Cordelia.

Characters also experience drastic changes within themselves. Edgar must masquerade as the beggar Poor Tom to become victorious in the end, just as Cordelia will lose her standing and be banished in order to come back with an army to try to help her father. Aside from loss of social status, there are characters who experience existential changes, and see the error of their ways. King Lear himself starts our tale with a slow spiral into madness, but in Act V when he's in a cell with Cordelia, he realizes he was wrong and tries to reconnect with his daughter, even asks for forgiveness (ACT V, SCENE III), probably because the audience needs some glimmer of hope in a situation where the good guys are losing so badly.

Finally, there is also a moral vein that runs throughout the whole story, the struggle between two concepts, the good and the evil. The characters are divided into the righteous and the villainous, and while the existence of such absolutes as Good and Evil is quite doubtful out there in the glorious world of Reality, this dichotomy seems a necessity for a good drama. Or a good war, for that matter, but this paper is on our buddy Shakespeare so lets stick to him.

Unlike other tales of good vs. evil, good doesn't win this time around, at least not completely. While the duke of Albany says that all evil people will be justly punished (ACT V, SCENE III) - and the villains of the story



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