King Lear's Transition in Shakespeare's Play, King Lear
In the play King Lear, by William Shakespeare, the main character, Lear, takes the audience through his journey toward his enlightenment. At the beginning of the play Lear appears to be an arrogant man who is too much of the flesh. He associates money and power with love and respect. Thus, when Lear has given all this material possessions to his daughters, Goneril and Regan, he begins his long journey of self discovery. Through an analysis of two passages, one can see the transition of Lear from a man blinded by the flesh to a caring and compassionate madman that sees the truth.
The first passage comes from act I, scene iv. Lear's arrogance is illustrated in this passage as he commands nature to make Goneril infertile ; "Dry up in her organs of increase, / And from her derogate body never spring / A babe to honour her!..." (I.iv.245-258). As Lear speaks angrily to an external subject, nature, he is really speaking angrily inwardly to his subconscious. As seen in Oedipus Rex, the realisation of a truth is very painful process and often brings out strong emotions such as anger. Usually the truth is presented to a character in small increments so as not to overwhelm the character. Thus, the anger displayed by Lear is a reflection of the pain he feels from his daughter's betrayal.
The contrary of this is found in the second passage. In this scene the audience is shown humble Lear. When he says "Let copulation thrive; for Gloucester's bastard son / Was kinder to his father than my daughters / Got 'tween the lawful sheets. / To't luxury, pell-mell! for I lack soldiers." (IV.vi.110-114). This supports that Lear is much humbler. As seen in the first excerpt, Lear commanded nature to exact revenge upon his daughters for the crime they committed against them. However, in this scene the audience sees a more humble Lear who blames himself for the way his daughters turned out. The anger, brought forth by the realization of the truth, has humbled Lear; Thus, he no longer commands nature, but is confined to nature's laws.
Although it is evident that Lear's arrogance has been dissolved, Lear's perception of Goneril and Regan has not changed. In act I, scene iv, Lear describes how Goneril's evil deeds against him is "sharper than a serpent's tooth . . ." (I.iv.254). This is an accurate description of Goneril's role; In the story of Genesis, the serpent was a character that brought forth Adam and Eve's enlightenment to a higher state of consciousness. Similarly, in King Lear, the characters Goneril and Regan have forced the rebirth of Lear through their betrayal of their father.
Lear's speech in the first passage follows a well constructed, ten syllables per line, verse which is common to most of Shakespeare's characters. An example of this is when Lear says, "Into her womb convey sterility! / Dry up in her the organs of increase, / And from her derogate body never spring / . . ."...