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King Lear And Falstaff Essay, Research Paper

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 greatlyalter his life and the lives of those around him. As Lear bears

the status of King heis, 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. (Cain) Thisuntimely abdication of his throne

results in a chain reaction of events that send him througha 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

thatLearbegins to make mistakes that will eventually result in his downfall. (Neher)

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 statesthat 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. (Williams) Leavinghim, 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 evilwear. He banishes Kent, a loyal

servant to Lear, and his youngest and previously most loved daughter Cordelia.

(Nixon) This results in Lear surrounding himself with peoplewho 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 sanity. While lost in his grief and self-pity the

foolis 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 littlechild. (Bradley) 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. Theterrified little child that is now unsheltered is

dramatically portrayed byLear’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 thegross sins that he has committed.

The pinnacle of this hell that is experienced be Lear in orderto 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. (Bradley) 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

massiverepercussions 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 cando this to Lear then what difficult corner lies ahead

that may cause similar alterations inone’s life. 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 andthe 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 becausethere 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 atragedy 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

andcalamity slowly being wornin 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 andcalamity. 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. (Cain) Thehero must be of a

high status on the chain and the hero also possesses a tragic flaw that

initiates the tragedy. Thefall of the hero is not felt by him alone but creates

a chain reaction which affects everything below him. Henry IV is a very

different composition. Falstaff the main characteris clearly a prankster, and

not nearly as many horrible things happen to him. Falstaff is the character we

laugh at, a mock King in Henry IV. Hal is the ideal King and Falstaffis a Lord

of Misrule. Up to certain point Falstaff is merely an object of pure

entertainment. His character is present chiefly for the humor that arises by

showcasing hisludicrous traits. Why should we laugh at a man with a huge belly

and an appetite to match, at the way he suffers on a hot day, his cumbersome

size and the liveliness of hisspirit. His timeless age and his youthful

lightness of heart show his true nature. Why do we find comedy in the enormity

of his lies and the suddenness of their exposure andfrustration. The contrast

between his reputation and his real character, seen most absurdly when, at the

mere mention of his name, a rebel surrenders to him. (Neher) Whatis it about

Falstaff that caused us to laugh at these and many such things? Here we have

them poured out in endless profusion and with that air of careless ease which is

sofascination in Shakespeare. But while they are quite essential to the

character, there is much more than just fun in him. These things by themselves

do not explain why,besides laughing at Falstaff, we are made happy by him and

laugh with him. But while they are quite essential to the character, there is an

ugly side of Falstaff, but weoverlook it in light of his great humor. The two

compositions have humorous parts in them but both are distinctly different.

Henry IV is clearly a comedy with almost all the traits of a comedy while King

Lear isnot as Clear cut but is definitely not either one. Falstaff and King Lear

are somewhat dissimilar. King Lear deals with all of the problems from one of

his actions, abdicationof his throne. Falstaff deals with the situations

surrounding the prince and the different paths he can take with his life. The

two characters share a troubled past and an evenmore troubling future but that

is the extent of their similarity. What draws us in and makes us like Falstaff?

If you ask what he enjoys, no doubt the answer is first and foremost, eating and

drinking, then relaxing at the inn with his othermerry friends and companions.

These things are what really matter to Falstaff. Compared to King Lear who is

extremely unhappy and is on a quest to regain his happinesswhich is ultimately

impossible. Falstaff indulgences cause him to slowly lose his life and alienate

the people around him. Like King Lear they both lose possessions along

theirjourney. They are alike in many ways but take different ways to meet their

ends. Their experiences are different but their end is the same.


Cain, Brian. King Lear Revealed. Rayback Publishing, 1992. Los Angelos,


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