King Lear Essay

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Motifs and symbols are often used to enrich a literary text. Identify one or more symbols, motifs or strands of imagery and explore the role which they play in King Lear

Shakespeare’s plays were written in the Elizabethan era, which profoundly influenced his writing. During the Elizabethan time, there was the idea that God had set a place for everything in the universe, in hierarchical order. The Elizabethan’s called this, The Great Chain of Being. During this time if someone were to step out of his or her place in this divine line, it would not only be extremely uncommon but it would be sinful, inhuman. That power thirsty human would be succumbing to their inner animal, and therefore step down a rank on The Great Chain of Being. The Great Chain of Being influenced all beliefs throughout the Elizabethan era, and that is evident through Shakespeare’s writing. The symbols and motifs he used in his play King Lear, are undoubtedly connected to Elizabethan beliefs and views.

Female sexuality (or the lack of it) is a motif Shakespeare uncovers multiple times throughout the play. Besides Lear’s three daughters Cordelia, Regan and Goneril there are no other women in the play. Gloucester, Lear and Kent are all unmarried. Yet Lear has this obsession with women, or rather with the ungodliness he associates them with. Lear’s rage towards women begins when he demands for an undying confession of love from each of his daughters; the winner shall get the largest piece of land. His youngest daughter Cordelia proclaims to Lear “I love your majesty. According to my bond. No more nor less.” (Act 1, Scene 1 lines 102-103) Cordelia speaks the truth. Whereas Goneril and Regan lie through their teeth, claiming things such as “Sir, I love you more than word can wield the matter; Dearer than eyesight, space and liberty.” (Act 1, Scene 1, lines 81-82). Lear believes the untruthful words of Goneril and Regan, and he unleashes his anger upon Cordelia. As Ian Johnson said in his...
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