King Lear: Lear the Tragic Hero

Topics: Tragedy, Tragic hero, William Shakespeare Pages: 5 (1652 words) Published: October 8, 1999
King Lear: Lear The Tragic Hero

The definition of tragedy in the Oxford dictionary is, "drama of elevated theme and diction and with unhappy ending; sad event, serious accident, calamity." However, the application of this terminology in Shakespearean Tragedy is more expressive. Tragedy does not only mean death or calamity, but in fact, it refers to a series of steps which leads to the downfall of the tragic hero and eventually to his tragic death. Lear, the main character in King Lear was affirmed as the tragic hero because the play meets all the requirements of a tragedy. In order for a character to be qualified as a tragic hero, he must be in a high status on the social chain and the hero also possesses a tragic flaw which initiates the tragedy. The fall of the hero is not felt by him alone but creates a chain reaction which affects everyone around him. Besides, the hero must experience suffering and calamity slowly which would contrast his happier times. The suffering and calamity instantaneously caused chaos in his life and eventually leads to his death. Finally, the sense of fear and pity to the tragic hero must appear in the play as well. This makes men scared of blindness to truths which prevents them from knowing when fortune or something else would happen on them.

Lear, the king of England would be the tragic hero because he held the highest position in the social chain at the very beginning of the play. His social position gave him pride as he remarked himself as "Jupiter" and "Apollo". Lear out of pride and anger has banished Cordelia and Kent and divided his Kingdom in halves to Goneril and Regan. Lear's hamartia which is his obstinate pride and anger overrides his judgment, thus, prevents him to see the true faces of people. As in Act One, although Cordelia said "nothing", she really means everything she loves to his father. However, Lear only believed in the beautiful words said by Regan and Goneril. Although Kent, his loyal advisor begged Lear to see closer to the true faces of his daughters, he ignored him and became even more angry because Kent hurt Lear's pride by disobeying his order to stay out of his and Cordelia's way Lear had already warned him, "The bow is bent and drawn, make from the shaft." ( I, I, 145). Kent still disobeys Lear and hurts his pride further as he said, "Now by Apollo, King, thos swearest thy gods in vain.". Finally, Kent is banished. Because of the flaw of pride, Lear has initiated the tragedy by perturbing the order in the chain of being as he gives up his thrown, divides the kingdom and banishes his loyalist servant and loveliest daughter.

The downfall of Lear is not just the suffering of him alone but the suffering of everyone down the chain of being. For instance, Lear's pride and anger caused Cordelia and Kent to be banished, and Gloucester loses his position and eyes. Everything that happened to these characters are in a chain of reaction and affected by Lear's tragic flaw. If Lear did not lack of personal insight and if he did not have such an obstinate pride, he would not have banished Cordelia and Kent, then Goneril and Regan would not be able to conspire against Lear. Without the plot of Goneril and Regan, Gloucester would not have been betrayed by Edmund and lose his eyes and status due to the charge of treason. Moreover, the chain of reaction was continuous until the lowest person in the society is affected; the fool, which is the entertainer, was kicked out into the storm with Lear by Goneril because he was smart enough to tell the truth of Lear's blindness.

" Why, after I have cut the egg I' the middle and eat
up the meat, the two crowns of the egg. When thou
clovest thy crown I' the middle and gavest away both parts,
thou borest thine ass on thy back o'er the dirt. Thou hadst
little wit in thy bals crown when thou gavest thy golden one
away." ( Fool, I, iv, 155-160)

Because Goneril realized the wit of...
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