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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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