King Lear: The Idea of Imprisonment

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In the play King Lear, by William Shakespeare, the idea of imprisonment is a fundamental to the plot and central ideas. All characters are imprisoned, whether it is physically, socially or psychologically. Through their society and its', as well as their own faults each character suffers ‘imprisonment' in some form.

King Lear is one of the more caged characters of the play, he suffers both social and psychological incarceration and this is one the chief reasons for his descent into mental hell and inevitable downfall. Lear is imprisoned by the role he must play in society and by his own internal shackles. The abdication of the throne initiates the action in the play, through the consequent chain of events. However this indicates that Lear is imprisoned by his responsibility to society, he is bound by a social harness. He renounces the throne to lead the rest of his life in pleasure and in doing so he disrupts the Great Chain of Being, he challenges the position that he has been given and thus his family and indeed the entire nation, descend into disorder and chaos. The storm is symbolic of this occurrence, the weather imitates the state of men. "One minded like the weather," the gentle man recognises the disquiet and unrest of the storm, as a manifestation of the turbulence in Society at the time. He is not only responsible for the harmony of a nation, as the father figure it is also his duty to maintain harmony in his house. This he does with little success when "bribes" his daughters to fuel his own ego. "Which of you shall we say doth love us most,/That we our largest bounty extend," Lear is requesting his daughters to compete in a "game" of words, he does not really wish to know who loves him the most, he simply wishes to be flattered, through this he is rashly abandoning his responsibility as a parent and as the father figure. He is imprisoned by societies values, as a man and the King he has control, this he...
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