A true tragedy has a very serious tone by which many sorrowful events lead to some kind of death. In literature, tragedy can often seem very dry due to the reader most likely knowing the ending. But often, the author uses different content and styles of writing to further develop the story beyond what is actually being read. Some examples of these methods are the use parallel plots, themes, and imagery. A parallel plot can be used to help support the main plot of the story, and themes or imagery are often used to help the reader picture what a certain character might be experiencing. In William Shakespeare’s King Lear, the reader is better able to understand the content of the story through the author’s thorough use of imagery, themes, as well as its parallel plot. These techniques allow each individual reader to interpret the story in their own way. The use of a parallel plot allows the author to enhance the meaning or idea that is trying to be reached in the story. Sharing common themes between the two plots can aid in this idea. The plot with King Lear having the same themes as the plot with the Earl of Gloucester truly develops the story as a whole. Shakespeare probably realized having the two plots share themes would enforce the points he was trying to reach. An example of a common theme shared is the conflicting relationship between father and child. Lear starts the entire dilemma of hate and destruction by his desire for flattery. It can be assumed from the play's title, Lear and his daughters are part of the main plot, whereas the plot of Gloucester and his sons is considered parallel. Gloucester's plot acts as an echo since it repeats some of the events and thoughts which took place earlier, only it uses different characters and settings. Shakespeare probably planned this so he could introduce an idea then support it later through each plot point. Literary critic, Harold Bloom would agree, “The Gloucester subplot may be said to work deliberately against Lear’s Jobean sense of his own uniqueness as a sufferer;”(2). The use of Gloucester's plot in the play gives the reader an opportunity to experience the problem and its answers not just once, but twice. The reader can catch up on any previously overlooked points even though different characters and situations are presented. From the beginning, Shakespeare allows the reader to explore an idea of King Lear without any prior background to his character. In the first scene when Lear has each daughter express their love, Goneril first introduces Lear's state of symbolic blindness. “Sir, I love you more than word can wield the matter; dearer than eyesight, space and liberty...”(KL 1.1.57-64). At this point, the reader can see Goneril's true personality, and King Lear's lack of perception. It's not until all three daughters' speeches are given that the reader can truly understand to King Lear's blindness. It is Goneril and Regan's speeches that blind King Lear from understanding and accepting Cordelia's true expression of love. “Noting will come of nothing. Speak again”(KL 1.1.92). It is King Lear's distorted mindset that leaves him in the dark from what is the truth. Cordelia's speech challenges King Lear's intelligence and portrays him as being less powerful. It is after this initial blindness that drives King Lear to begin to make many mistakes. Literary critic G. Wilson Knight agrees, “Lear starts his own tragedy by a foolish misjudgment”(13). He not only loses his daughter, but he also loses his most loyal friend, Kent. “Come not between the Dragon and his wrath. I loved her most, and though to set my rest on her kind nursery. Hence and avoid my sight”(KL 1.1.124-126) This show that King Lear can admit to his own wish for peace and rest but, he cannot acknowledge the fact that both Cordelia and he are being stubborn to not allow love except on their own terms. It is strange how Shakespeare made the reader aware of Cordelia's knowledge of King Lear's...
Cited: Barnet, Sylvan, Morton Berman, and William Burto. “The Plot of Tragedy Best Suits King Lear.” Readings on the Tragedies of William Shakespeare. Ed. Clarice Swisher. San Diego: Greenhaven, 1996. 194-97.
Bloom, Harold. Introduction. William Shakespeare’s King Lear. Modern Critical Interpretations. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea, 1987. 1-8
Knight, G. Wilson. “King Lear and the Comedy of the Grotesque.” William Shakespeare: The Tragedies. Modern Critical Views. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea, 1985. 11-26
Shakespeare, William. King Lear. Ed. Russell Fraser. New York: Signet, 1998
Warren, Michael J. “Quarto and Folio King Lear and the Interpretation of Edgar and Albany.” William Shakespeare’s King Lear. Modern Critical Interpretations. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea, 1987. 45-56.
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