Analyzing The Characteristics Of Kind Lear

6929 words - 28 pages

Analyzing the Characteristics of Kind Lear
Lear is the protagonist, whose willingness to believe his older
daughters’ empty flattery leads to the deaths of many people. In
relying on the test of his daughters’ love, Lear demonstrates that he
lacks common sense or the ability to detect his older daughters’
falseness. Lear cannot recognize Cordelia’s honesty amid the flattery,
which he craves. The depth of Lear’s anger toward Kent, his devoted
follower, suggests excessive pride—Lear refuses to be wrong. Hubris
leads Lear to make a serious mistake in judgment, while Lear’s
excessive anger toward Kent also suggests the fragility of his
emotional state. Hubris is a Greek term referring to excessive and
destructive pride. In the ancient Greek world, hubris often resulted
in the death of the tragic, heroic figure. This is clearly the case
with Lear, who allows his excessive pride to destroy his family.

Throughout the play, the audience is permitted to see how Lear deals
with problems. He is shocked when people do not obey as they have in
the past, since Lear is king and he expects to be obeyed. However,
instead of dealing with issues, Lear looks to the Fool to distract him
with entertainment, to help him forget his problems. He has been
insulted and demeaned as king, but he is not prepared to face those
who are responsible. Instead, Lear often responds to problems with
anger and outbursts of cursing, even a physical attack when provoked.
When confronted with insults, Lear is helpless, at the mercy of his
daughter and her servants, and he often succumbs to despair and
self-pity. The once-omnipotent king struggles to find an effective
means of dealing with his loss of power.

Eventually, the king reveals that he is frightened and apprehensive
for his future, but he refuses to submit to another’s decisions. Lear
wants to remain in charge of his destiny, even though the choices he
makes are poor or filled with danger. Thus, Lear chooses to go out
into the storm because he must retain some element of control. The
only other choice is to acquiesce to his daughters’ control, and for
Lear, that option is not worth considering. Lear is stubborn, like a
willful child, and this is just one additional way in which he tries
to deal with the events controlling his life. Lear flees into the
storm, as a child flees a reality too harsh to accept.

In spite of his despair and self-pity, Lear is revealed as a complex
man, one whose punishment far exceeds his foolish errors, and thus,
Lear is deserving of the audience’s sympathy. Eventually, Lear
displays regret, remorse, empathy, and compassion for the poor, a
population that Lear has not noticed before. Lear focuses on the
parallels he sees to his own life, and so in a real sense, his pity
for the poor is also a reflection of the pity he feels for his...

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