King Lear: A Tragic Hero

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King Lear: A Tragic Hero

Bibliography w/2 sources Tragedy is defined in Webster�s New Collegiate Dictionary as 1) a medieval narrative poem or tale typically describing the downfall of a great man or 2) a serious drama typically describing a conflict between the protagonist and a superior force, such as destiny, and having a sorrowful or disastrous conclusion that excites pity or terror. The play of King Lear is one of William Shakespeare�s great tragic pieces, it is not only seen as a tragedy in itself, but also a play that includes two tragic heroes and four villains. In the tragedy of King Lear the tragic hero must not be all good or all bad, error of judgement deprives the hero, the use of two tragic characters intensifies the tragedy, the tragedy begins not by character but by action and through their suffering the tragic heroes gain insights.

We must be able to identify ourselves with the tragic hero if he is to inspire fear, for we must feel that what happens to him could happen to us. If Lear was completely evil, we would not be fearful of what happens to him: he would merely be repulsive. But Lear does inspire fear because, like us, he is not completely upright, nor is he completely wicked. He is foolish and arrogant, it is true, but later he is also humble and compassionate. He is wrathful, but at times, patient. Because of his good qualities, we experience pity for him and feel that he does not deserve the severity of his punishment.

His actions are not occasioned by any corruption or depravity in him, but by an error in judgment, which, however, does arise from a defect of character. Lear has a tragic flaw, which is egotism. It is his egotism in the first scene that causes him to make his error in judgment of dividing his kingdom and losing Cordelia. Throughout the rest of the play, the consequences of this error slowly and steadfastly increase until Lear is destroyed. There must be a change in the...
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