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L e a r F l o w s W I t h T h e F l a w s
Shakespeare’s tragedy King Lear is a detailed description of the consequences of one man’s deci-sions. This fictitious man is Lear, King of England, whose decisions greatly change his life and the lives of those around him. As Lear takes on the rank of King he is, as one expects, a man of great power but he surrenders all of this power to his daughters as a reward for their display of love towards him. This sud-den surrender of his throne results in a chain reaction of events that send him through a journey of hell. King Lear is a typical description of one man’s journey through hell in order to compensate for his sin. As the play begins you can almost immediately see that Lear begins to make mistakes that will eventually result in his downfall. The very first words thing he says in the play is:
“…Give me the map there. Know that we have divided
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 abandon his throne. He goes on to offer pieces of his kingdom to his daughters as a form of reward to his test of love for him.
“Great rivals in our youngest daughter’s love,
Long in our court have made their amorous sojourn,
And here are to be answered. Tell me, my daughters
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 mistakes that he makes in this play. By abandoning his throne, he disrupts the great chain of being which states that the King must not challenge the position that God has given him. This damage 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 truthfully care for him because at this stage he can’t see beyond his nose evil wear. He banishes Kent, a loyal servant, and his youngest and most loved daughter Cordelia. This results in Lear surrounding himself with people who only wish to use him which leaves him very vulnerable. 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 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. He actually being out on the lawns of his castle dramatically repre-sents the fact that Lear has now been pushed out from behind his Knights. The terrified little child that is now unsheltered is portrayed by Lear’s sudden insanity and his rage and anger is seen through the thun-derous weather that is being experienced. All of this contributes to the suffering of Lear due to the gross sins that he has committed.
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
stone, 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 mistake has proven to have major effect on Lear and the lives of those around him eventually killing almost everyone who was involved.
The main character of the play would be King Lear. 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 stops him from seeing 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 argument to see the true faces of his daughters. Kent has hurt Lear’s pride by not listening his order to stay out of his and Cordelia’s way when Lear has already warned him.
“The bow is bent and drawn, make from the shaft.”
(Act I, Sc i, Ln 144-145)
Kent still disobeys Lear and is banished. Because of this flaw, Lear has started the tragedy by disturbing the order in the chain of being by dividing the kingdom, banishing his best servant and daughter, and giving up his thrown. Due to this flaw, Lear has given his two older daughters the chance to plot against him. Lear is finally thrown out of his daughters home and left with a fool, a servant and a beggar. This is when Lear realizes the mistake that he has made and suffers the banishment of his two oldest daughters. Lear is caught in a storm and begins to go crazy because he can’t bear the treatment of his two daughters as well as the foolish mistake he made with Cordelia and Kent. Lear is suffering from rest when he is moving all over the place. The thing that breaks him is the death of his youngest daughter Cordelia. This suffering can be compared with other happier times like when Lear was still king and when he was not banished by his two daughters. The feeling of fear kicks in when Lear is in the storm angry at the gods,
“I tax not you, you elements, with unkindness. I never gave you king-dom, called you children, you owe me no subscription.”
(Act III, Sc ii, Ln 16-18)
telling them to make the weather harsher since he has not done anything for them and that he didn’t de-serve what he has received from his two daughters. The fear is how Lear in a short period of time went from king to just a regular person and from strong and proud to weak and unconfident. This shows that men do not hold their own destiny and that even though things may be great now you can be struck down just as fast as was to Lear.
The fall of Lear is not just the suffering of one man but the suffering of everyone close to him. Gloucester loses his status and eyes, Cordelia and Kent are banished, and Albany realizing his wife doesn’t love him.
Everything that happened to these characters are affected by Lear in one way or another and that if Lear had not banished Cordelia and Kent then the two sisters would not have been able to plot against their father. Without the plot of the two sisters, Gloucester would not of lost his eyes and his status to Cornwall because he was guilty of treason.
There is a chance in the play in which Edgar meets Oswald trying to kill his father because he is a traitor. Oswald is slain asks Edgar,
“And give the letters which thou find’st about me to Edmund Earl of Gloucester. Seek him out upon the English party.”
(Act IV, Sc vi, Ln 252-254)
Edgar finds a letter to Edmund from Goneril about the conspiracy to kill Albany. This part in the play affects the outcome of Goneril and Edmund in which will lead to both of their deaths.
The pain and suffering endured by Lear eventually tears down his strength and sanity. Lear is not as strong, arrogant, and prideful as he was in the beginning of the play instead he is weak, scared, and a confused old man. At the end of the play Lear has completely lost his sanity with the loss of his daughter Cordelia and this is the thing that breaks Lear and leads to his death. Lear dies with the knowledge that Cordelia is dead and dies as a man in pain.
“And my poor fool is hanged! No, no, no life!
Why should a dog, a horse, a rat, have life,
And thou no breath at all? Thou’lt come no
more, never, never, never, never, never!
Pray you, undo this button. Thank you sir. Do you see this? Look on her. Look, her lips” Look there, look there.”
(Act V, Sc iii, Ln 307-313)
Lear has a tragic flaw which is his pride that prevents him to see the true faces of people. He also sarted the tragedy by banishing Cordelia and Kent as well as dividing the kingdom. Lear has also suffered and survived the pains of his errors which leads to his death and which is contrasted to that of happier times. There is the feeling of fear in the play which is of a King losing his crown and becoming nothing. Lear has also created a chain reaction that affects everything down close to him. The element of chance is also introduced in the play with Edgar and Oswald, Oswald possessing the letter to Edmund. And the fi-nal part is the death of King Lear dying in suffering of the death of his daughter Cordelia.
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