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king Lear

By varatornpim Oct 07, 2014 2141 Words

King Lear was written by Shakespeare which is the one of his great tragedies that portrays human suffering and redemption through the experiences of the play’s major characters ; King Lear and Gloucester. All tragedies that Shakespeare wrote have a tragic hero and each of them has a tragic flaw. The play focuses on the suffering emerged out of the circumstances where attempted to occur within the family, between father and daughter and also among siblings. The suffering is caused by the irresponsibility of both King Lear and Gloucester, and it is later cured by redemption of both characters, which occurred towards the very end of the play, costs lives of many other characters on the way of achieving it. Shakespeare seems to question the reader whether one’s life and sacrifice meaningless or meaningful by repeating the key concepts of “Nothing” and “Nothingness” throughout the dialogues of his play. This essay will discuss whether life, as reflected in the play, is with or without meaning, and look at how Shakespeare illustrates through his concepts. King Lear and Gloucester are sinners both. This story shows what happens to sinners who don’t recognize their sin. Both of them have to suffer and the sufferings that they experience are connected to their sins. King Lear is a proud king who is use to be obeyed and praised. He is blind to the truth to see what or who is good or bad. King Lear has 3 daughters; Gonerill, Reagan and Cordelia. He asks them how much they love him and he will judge by their answers who should take which part of the kingdom. Gonerill and Reagan, disloyal daughter, says sweet words to King Lear but Cordelia’s answer is straightforward, which can see from this quote “Nothing, my lord.” Lear repeats, “Nothimg?” Cordelia answers, “Nothing. Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave my heart to my month; I love your majesty according to my bond, no more nor less.” We can see that the conversation repeats the word “Nothing” which reflects the play’s concept. Cordelia refuses to speak out sweet words that Lear wants to hear from her. For Cordelia, “Nothing” means nothing should beyond the love of the daughter but for Lear , he understands her daughter’s love to him is nothing and meaningless. There are also the argument with Lear’s disloyal daughters; Gonerill and Reagan, he asks,” who is it can tell me who I am?” what he means might be that he is a king and a father, so his daughter should not tell him what to do. However, this gives the idea of “Who are we?” when he got thrown out from his disloyal daughters from the castle. The fool is the only person who left with him. The fool makes him repeat what he says to Cordelia,” Nothing can be made of nothing.” Lear, who used to be a great king, has lost what he had and left with nothing. Again, the message repeated in the given quote shapes the concept of “ nothingness”. Lear will begin to loss his possession he has at the moment. Lear is suffering from mental disorder. However, in the midst of this deep suffering, Lear learns something and gains some signs of discovery. Shakespeare is asking the readers to think about who we actually are which we can see from this quotes” No, I will be the pattern of all patience. I will say nothing.” This shows Lear’s patience, which helps him endure with the punishment from his own pride when he is in the position of king, a master and the father who fails to perform his duties and responsibility. This is the first time that he is actually learns from his patience after his pain has grow so deep. The theme of kingship always in Shakespeare’s plays. As Lear is turning insane, he develops the care for the others. He realizes that king should experience poverty. He recognizes his duty and he fails to perform when he was the king. This situation is similar to King James who Shakespeare intends to give message to. England was poor; many people died cold and kids died young with disease while the court lived a good life. Shakespeare lets Lear and Gloucester give a message which they would never learn as they lived a luxury life in a poor country. Poor people are punished for what they have done wrong but rich people can hide it with fine clothes which shows social injustice. Rich people bend the law to benefit themselves. They don’t fear power of heaven. Everyone in power should experience poverty and share the wealth. When Edgar first escapes from home, he pretends to be a mad beggar, takes off his clothes and covers himself with dirt and mud. This shows the contrast between the rich and the poor. When Lear is left in the storm, he sees poor Tom and starts to think about the poor. He says; “How can poor people with nowhere to live bear the storm like this. Or I have taken too much?.” As a king, he didn’t think about this but as nothing, he experiences poverty. In the end he recognizes his mistakes and asks for forgiveness and through the suffering, he learns and becomes a normal man. At the end of the play, Lear also has chance to reunite with his daughter, Cordelia. But the cost of this lesson is so high, as it exchanges with Cordelia’s death that you can see in the quote “ O dear father it is thy business that I go about”. Cordelia is compared to Jesus because her words from the bible. She is a Christ figure who has saved her father, Lear like Christ who dies for redemption. So is it worth it for Cordelia to sacrifice her life for her father or not. This is left to let the readers think by own “personal choice” which Shakespeare always gives space for it. He tried to emphasizes that people all have the “personal choice” to do things because we are the product of our free will, not the product of environment. Environment can influence but not all. This play is about “Patricide” or children killing parents shows that everybody has personal choice (good and bad isn’t permanent) as Gonerill, Reagan and Edmund but they’ve made their choice to be evil. For Lear, what’s happening to him is what he is done to the others. Lear allows his anger to expel Cordelia and Kent and so he is then got sent away. Life is changed and he is no longer respected. Lear’s sin is from his mind that holds anger and pride. So, how he suffers is that he becomes mental disorder. Through his suffering, Lear learns what he has done wrong. His downfall makes him realize and repent. His conscious comes back again. The concepts of Nothing and Nothingness can be viewed through two different views which is life of an individual and the life combined as collective humankind. From the first one, the meaning of an individual life can be considered through Lear and Gloucester’s experiences and redemption, which determined by moral sense. The life of human being is nothing comparable to the movement of the universe. Human only live and then die; No more nor less. We are beholden by nature to do good things in this short life, to live peacefully and bring no harm to the others. Gloucester, a noble man who has struggle with his two sons; Edgar and Edmond. When he was young, he expresses a wrongful sexual desire. Gloucester’s sin of sexual lusts leads him to suffer of blindness by being betrayed by Edmond. He fails to recognize the good person, in this case, the innocent Edgar. When Gloucester lost his eyes, he realizes his past mistakes of being blind by truth which you can see from this quote “ I have no way, and therefore want no eyes; I stumbles when I saw.. Might but live to see thee in my touch, I’d say I had eyes again.” This quote shows that when he had eyes, he was blind to the truth. But now that he is blind, he can see nothing whether good or bad. But through the nothing he can see, he fell what is good and what is bad. After his eyes are pulled out, he realizes his mistake that Edgar is accused. However, Gloucester did learn from his suffering, which is the patience to accept with the pain and live with it. His royal son, Edgar who disguise as Poor Tom, saved Gloucester. Edgar tricks Gloucester by pretending that he already jumped off the cliff but was still alive because of the miracle. Edgar statement, “Why I do trifle thus with his despair is done to cure it.” which he attempts to save his father. Gloucester also regains his good son’s love and respect occurs toward the end of the play. Lear and Gloucester suffer greatly from the “Filial ingratitude” that had knocked them down physically and mentally. Lear had gained and regained love, tolerance, wisdom and understanding at the end. Especially, Lear who claims “ I am a man more sinned against than sinning.” Which shows his feeling that the punishment of the sin he commits is heavier than the sin itself. Shakespeare is telling the readers that evil should be punished. Good people must stand up against all the evil. It applies to Shakespeare’s and our worlds because human nature doesn’t change. If they do not, the evil will multiply and cause massive destructions. The evil here is means to give power to the bad daughters, which is Lear’s mistake. Although he knows who are good and bad but he treats everyone the same. He doesn’t think about how they will use the power. This is considering what happens in the society when bad people have power. He should reward goodness and punish badness. If there is no punishment, it allows bad people to be bad. Shakespeare wants to show us the society what would happen if the ruling power doesn’t punish wrong doings and allows badness to be treated equally as goodness. This play is knocking down our false pride and reminding of the reality what we are. Shakespeare wants to tell us that we are nothing. The original state of human being is nothing. Human being likes to think that we are something. We have pride and ego and think that we are special than the others but it is a false thinking. Shakespeare is reminding us not to think like that. We are not different from others. We do not decide to be born. We cannot stop growing old, suffering and cannot prevent dying. Shakespeare also seems to ask the reader whether the death of the character is meaningful or meaningless. For meaningless, It makes no difference what kind of people you are because you are going to die. Good people suffer but die anyway. Not only normal people suffer but also the king too. Bad people just don’t care when other people suffer because they just care only about themselves. Morality is such a waste of time in reality. It make no different when all mean “nothing”. There is no particular reason to do anything. For example, the death of Cordelia suggests no justice at all. It is too much nothing when everybody just dies. But for meaningful, only if there is life after death, it would be worth to do the good things. Edmund is an example of unloved kid, which can be seen as trouble teenager with no love. But when he realizes that Gonerill and Reagan love him, he wants to do something good by telling where is Lear and Cordelia are. But Edmund seems not to be in the case for repentance. It seems more that he knows he is going to die and just does not care about anything anymore. In conclusion, the characters of family members do not change. The good remains good and the evil remains evil. Good and evil surround the main characters, which balance between the two sides. Shakespeare shows that the world we live in that there is good and evil. Weakness and sins are exposed to the world. He also reminding that we have a choice and also emphasize the idea of life as nothingness. In my opinion, this play everyone either loves or hates so much. Love is not a healer. It starts all the trouble and tragedy itself and also illustrates the individual’s capacity to see and feel the pains of others. Feeling precedes understanding and eventual correction. Before Lear is driven out into the storm, all he feels is disloyal from his own daughters but when he reduced to nothing he comes to realizes that man’s life is as cheap as animal.

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