King Lear Essay - How Has King Lear Held Its Appeal for a Modern Audience?

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How does Shakespeare’s King Lear hold its appeal to a modern audience?

King Lear, a play by William Shakespeare has held its appeal for modern audiences as it explores the universal ideas and timeless themes of Power and Loyalty communicated through characterisation, language techniques and representations that parallel the context of the time in which they are produced.

In the opening scene of the ‘love test’ Lear is offering his kingdom to his daughters Goneril, Regan and Cordelia. Much havoc and arguing occurs, leaving Cordelia banished and Goneril and Regan in full control of the kingdom. The concept of power is present as Shakespeare examines the importance of relationships where a hierarchy is in order. After withdrawing himself as king, Lear’s eldest two daughters Goneril and Regan strip him of his supremacy and force him to reduce the number of knights in his service, demonstrating his loss of authority as a King and a man. Shakespeare uses the simile comparison of Lear to animals to clearly depict his fading worth and power. “O, reason not the need! Our basest beggars are in the poorest thing superfluous. Allow not nature more than nature needs, man’s life as cheap as beast’s…” The underlying theme of power is consistent throughout ‘King Lear’ and is also present in today’s society. Goneril and Regan believe that by possessing Lear’s kingdom they have power over everything, paralleling that of modern day society – materialism is power.

The theme of loyalty is apparent in the ‘Storm scene’. Lear is demonstrated as a flawed individual whose arrogance has caused him to make mistakes. This scene acts as a catalyst, a turning point, as Shakespeare symbolises a ‘cleansing period’ for Lear. His diminishing sanity is represented through the personification of the storm “rumble thy bellyful; spit, fire, spout, rain!” Despite the harsh storm, Lear’s Fool stands with him in his period of despair and rage demonstrating his loyalty towards his king. This...
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