Review of William Shakespeare’s Play, King Lear

December 9, 2020 by Essay Writer

Introduction

King Lear was authored by Shakespeare around 1605. It is usually ranked as one of the greatest plays of Shakespeare. The setting of the play, King Lear, is like the setting of any of his other plays, dramatizing events from the eighteenth century. The play demonstrates how vulnerable noblemen and parents are to the depredations of unscrupulous children and also shows how fragile the fabric of King Elizabeth’s English society actually was. This paper emphasizes on character analysis of the play, King Lear.

King Lear

He is the protagonist of the play and the aging king of Britain. Although Lear is used to enjoying powers and being flattered as a king, he does not like being put to challenges and being challenged. He has a basic flaw at the beginning of the play in that he values appearance above reality. Lear doesn’t want to fulfil King’s obligations of governing for the good of the citizens despite the fact that he enjoys the title of the King. He values public show of love than the real love and this is demonstrated in his test of his daughters. Many readers of the play would conclude that Lear is blind to the truth, but he loves Cordelia, his daughter, the most. He doesn’t seem to learn from his mistakes and become a better king at the beginning of the play. However, his values do change over the course of the play and he realizes his sanity and incompetence in comparison to the good forces of the natural world. He transforms to a caring and humble individual. He comes to place his own love for Cordelia above everything, to the point that he would prefer to live with her in prison than rule as a king.

Cordelia

Her main characteristics are beauty, kindness and honesty. She is contrasted with Goneril and Regan throughout the play, who are neither loving nor honest, and they manipulate their father for their own gains.Cordelia remains loyal to Lear despite his cruelty towards her and forgives him. She also displays a mild and indulgent temperament towards her evil sisters, Regan and Goneril. She refuses to take part in Lear’s love test at the beginning of the play, an act which she establishes herself as a depository of virtue. The obvious authenticity of her love for Lear makes clear the extent of King’s flaw in banishing her. For most of the middle part of the play, she is taking part offstage, but on observing the depredations of Regan and Goneril and watching Lear’s descent into madness, she is never far from the audience’s thoughts. Her beauty can be described using religious terms and with dignity. Rumors of her return to Britain begin to spread everywhere and the action of the play starts to move to her, once she lands at Dover, as all the other characters converge at the coast. She later reunites with Lear, an action which marks the restoration of order in the kingdom and victory of love and forgiveness over hatred. This moment of familial joy and happiness makes the devastating finale of the play much crueler, as Cordelia, who is the personification of virtue and kindness, becomes a literal sacrifice of the uncaring character of an apparently unjust world.

Goneril and Regan

Goneril is the Lear’s ruthless oldest daughter and she is the wife of duke of Albany. Goneril is amoral, treacherous, and jealous. Her aggressiveness would particularly shock the Shakespeare’s audience as they would not expect such from a female character. She challenges her father’spower, starts an affair with Edmund, and wrests military power away from the duke of Albany. Regan is the second oldest daughter of Lear after Goneril. Generally, there is little good to be said for Goneril and Regan, who are largely distinguished in their villain and spite. Their bad behavior towards their father seems to be the match for his own pride and temper, and his bad character at the beginning of the play. But any sympathy that their father’s audience exhibit for them fades away quickly, at the end of Act 2 when they turn their father out into the storm and Act 3 when they viciously put out Gloucester’s eyes. They are, in a sense, personification of evil. Their greedy ambition enables them to break all oppositions and make themselves mistresses. Later, this same appetite results to their undoing as they both harbor sexual desire for Edmund which destroys their alliance and eventually destroys one another.

Edmund

He is the most complex and sympathetic character of all villains in the play. He is a perfect schemer, a character who is eager to seize any opportunity and willing to achieve his goals at any cost. However, his ambition reflects a thirst for land and power, and also a desire for recognition which is denied to him by his status as a bastard. Edmund’s serial treachery is a conscious rebellion against the social order which denied him the same position as Gloucester’s legitimate son, Edgar. He pretends to depend on divine gods when he says that gods stand for bastards. However, he depends not on divine aid but his own initiative. Edmund is such a capable and cold villain that it is entertaining to see him work. It is only at the end of the plays does he show a flicker of weakness. Edmund sees both Regan and Goneril die for him and, mortally wounded, he seems to repent of his villainy and admits to having ordered Cordelia’s death.

Gloucester

He is the nobleman who is loyal to King Lear and whose rank is below that of duke. One of the things we learn from Gloucester is that he is an adulterer for having fathered a bastard son, Edmund. Gloucester’s fate is similar to that of Lear in many ways and he misjudges which one of his children to trust. Although he seems ineffectual and weak in the early acts when he fails to prevent Lear from being turned out of his own house, later, he demonstrates that he is of great bravery.

Edgar

He is the Gloucester’s older, legitimate son. His roles in the play include, among others, beginning as a fool who is easily tricked by his brother, then being a mad beggar to evade his father’s men, then impersonating further to aid Lear and Gloucester, and finally coming out as an armored champion to avenge his brother’s treason. Edgar’s impersonations and propensity for disguises makes it hard to give his effective characterization.

Conclusion

Different characters play different roles in the play. Each character has a special role and Shakespeare is very competent and successful in his work of authoring the play and the characterization. Some contrast and others match one another but the end product makes the play very interesting to read again and again. I would therefore recommend King Lear to any reader and lover of plays.

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