The Journey into Madness as Prescribed by Two Similar Protagonists

Topics: King Lear, Akira Kurosawa, Ran Pages: 6 (2439 words) Published: November 14, 2013
According to the Oxford Dictionary (2013), madness can be defined as the state of having a serious mental illness. It is also defined as extremely foolish behaviour. In the text, “King Lear” by Williams Shakespeare and the film, “Ran” by Akira Kurosawa, both the author and the director deal with the fact that the Protagonist’s past haunts them so much that they eventually become insane. As a result of their hamartia, both King Lear and the Great Lord, Hidetora, have a past that haunts them, and because they are unable to accept their sins and mistakes in the past, they become mad. Their journey into madness is evident throughout the film and play, and can be seen through their sudden loss of power, through their ‘loved ones’ betrayal, and through their blindness to reality. Although the protagonists do undergo a dramatic change in character by the end of both the play and the film, it is their past mistakes and sins that lead them into madness, and what eventually leads them to their own downfall and catastrophic death. A sudden loss of power can be difficult to accept, especially if you had ultimate authority beforehand. In both “King Lear” and “Ran”, Lear and Hidetora go from having full power to having nothing unexpectedly. When Lear divides up his kingdom, although he acknowledges that he is giving away all of his authority and kingly duties, he still expects to keep his title as King. I do invest you jointly with my power,

Preeminence, and all the large effects
That troop with majesty. Ourself, by monthly course,
With reservation of an hundred knights
By you to be sustained, shall our abode
Make with you by due turns. Only shall we retain
The name, and all th' additions to a king.
(1.1.130-136)
In this quote, we see that Lear is not fully ready to give away his entire kingship. When he demands to keep the title of king, we see that he still wishes to hold a position of power, but just without the responsibility that comes with it. Likewise, in Ran, Hidetora does not want to give up his title of Great Lord. “I will retain a 30 man escort and keep the title and insignia of Great Lord” (Hidetora) When he says this, he shows that he is not yet ready to give up his full leadership role either, and he is not going to be able to live as he believes he can when his power is taken away from him fully. After Lear has given away his power, he still believes he has the authority to act as a king, and expects that others will still maintain the same respect for him as they did when he was king. We see this through the scene where he strikes Oswald for not regarding him as the King. “‘My lady’s father’? My lord’s knave, your whoreson dog! You slave, you cur!”(1.4.70-71) Lear is upset by the fact that Oswald does not call him the King and does not treat him with the same respect he was treated with before. In the same way, after Hidetora gives away his power, he still thinks he can do whatever he wants, and act in the same way he did when he was king. This can be seen in the film in the scene when Hidetora kills Taro’s guard. Taro’s guard was trying to defend Taro’s honour by slaying the Fool his for his mocking song. Hidetora thinks that even though he gave away his authority as Great Lord, he can still act in the same manner that he would if he was still the Great Lord. When Lear loses his men because his daughters think they are loud and disruptive, it is the moment when we see that Lear really holds no more power, and that his daughters are in control of all the authority. His own needs are even questioned by Regan and Goneril.

Hear me, my lord.
What need you five and twenty, ten, or five
To follow in a house where twice so many
Have a command to tend you?
(2.4.251-254)
This quote shows that Lear is really losing all of his power because his own daughters are trying to take away what he wants and using methods that put him in a situation he does not want to face. In the same way, when Hidetora is asked to...
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