King Lear Presents Ideas of What It Means to Be Human

Topics: King Lear, William Shakespeare, Meaning of life Pages: 2 (836 words) Published: September 11, 2011
Ideas of being Human in King Lear.
This essay will discuss the ideas of being human presented in Shakespeare’s King Lear and the variety of representations achieved through characterisation and the presentations of themes. King Lear manifests as a thought-provoking and philosophical play through its representation of multi-faceted characters who are at times self-obsessed and preoccupied with contemplating their status in life and the significance in the world. For many characters, the plot involves a journey of self-discovery which culminates in them being reconciled to what is essential is human. At the beginning of the play, the audience is presented with a Court which is criticised by Gloucester’s illegitimate son Edmund, as being full of “fops.” Immediately, the audience gains a sense that the country’s ruling family are given over to vanity and prone to flattery, a weakness that Edmund serves to exploit. It is as though the ruling class has lost human qualities, become materialistic and image conscious and looking for other sources, such as the stars or the Gods, to be responsible for the human condition or the state of the country. Gloucester blames Lear’s division of the kingdom on celestial events rather than a personal faltering on Lear’s part. Edmund scorns this and proclaims to the audience that “Nature art my Goddess,” stating that the individual agency and conscience, or in Edmund’s case, lack of conscience, determines a man’s course of action. Edmund is an agent in the demise of his brother and father who essentially fall fool to their too trusting natures and inability to see things for what they really are. Knowing and seeing become two prominent themes in the play and the characters who are initially presented as “fops” are stripped of all their material wealth and taken down to the barest facets of human representation, until they are little more than beasts. The reversal of the natural order is another key theme in this respect as those in...
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