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Analysis Of Shakespeare's King Lear

1125 words - 5 pages

King Lear, by William Shakespeare, is a tragic tale of filialconflict, personal transformation, and loss. The story revolvesaround the King who foolishly alienates his only truly devoteddaughter and realizes too late the true nature of his other twodaughters. A major subplot involves the illegitimate son ofGloucester, Edmund, who plans to discredit his brother Edgar andbetray his father. With these and other major characters in theplay, Shakespeare clearly asserts that human nature is eitherentirely good, or entirely evil. Some characters experience atransformative phase, where by some trial or ordeal their natureis profoundly changed. We shall examine Shakespeare's stand onhuman nature in King Lear by looking at specific characters inthe play: Cordelia who is wholly good, Edmund who is whollyevil, and Lear whose nature is transformed by the realization ofhis folly and his descent into madness.The play begins with Lear, an old king ready for retirement,preparing to divide the kingdom among his three daughters. Learhas his daughters compete for their inheritance by judging whocan proclaim their love for him in the grandest possiblefashion. Cordelia finds that she is unable to show her lovewith mere words:"Cordelia. [Aside] What shall Cordelia speak? Love,and be silent."Act I, scene i, lines 63-64.Cordelia's nature is such that she is unable to engage in evenso forgivable a deception as to satisfy an old king's vanity andpride, as we see again in the following quotation:"Cordelia. [Aside] Then poor cordelia!And not so, since I am sure my love'sMore ponderous than my tongue. "Act I, Scene i, lines 78-80.Cordelia clearly loves her father, and yet realizes that herhonesty will not please him. Her nature is too good to alloweven the slightest deviation from her morals. An impressivespeech similar to her sisters' would have prevented muchtragedy, but Shakespeare has crafted Cordelia such that shecould never consider such an act. Later in the play Cordelia,now banished for her honesty, still loves her father anddisplays great compassion and grief for him as we see in thefollowing:"Cordelia. O my dear father, restoration hangThy medicine on my lips, and let this kissRepair those violent harms that my two sistersHave in reverence made."Act IV, Scene vii, lines 26-29.Cordelia could be expected to display bitterness or evensatisfaction at her father's plight, which was his own doing.However, she still loves him, and does not fault him for theinjustice he did her. Clearly, Shakespeare has crafted Cordeliaas a character whose nature is entirely good, unblemished by anytrace of evil throughout the entire play.As an example of one of the wholly evil characters in the play,we shall turn to the subplot of Edmund's betrayal of his fatherand brother. Edmund has devised a scheme to discredit hisbrother Edgar in the eyes of their father Gloucester. Edmund isfully aware of his evil nature, and revels in it as seen in thefollowing quotation:"Edmund. This is the...

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