Lear As A Tragedy Essay

1348 words - 5 pages

Lear as a TragedyThe story of King Lear is a tragedy by the classical definition of the word. As stated by the definition, a tragedy is when a great figure falls a great distance through the mistakes brought on by pride. The reader is then left feeling pity and fear for the character's loss. The events in King Lear provide a great example of a tragedy, with King Lear himself as the great figure that falls a great distance.As the story begins, Lear is the great and powerful king of England. He has many loyal subjects and three daughters who serve him well. The king is has reigned over his kingdom for many years and is now ready to divide it among his daughters so that he may rest and be happy for the remainder of his time. Things could not be much better for the king. However, he is a conceited man who needs praise and adoration to keep him happy. This is where the problems begin.After receiving praise from Regan and Goneril, he then turns to Cordelia. Lear asks her "what can you say to draw a third, more opulent than your sisters? (Shakespeare, act 1 scene 1, lines 87-88), speaking of course about Cordelia's inherited section of the kingdom. She responds with "nothing" (Shakespeare, act 1 scene 1, line 90). This simple and honest response causes something to go off deep inside of Lear that would change him for the duration of the story.Although Cordelia was true and honest in her word, Lear misunderstands her and takes her honesty as disrespect. When he banishes Cordelia from any inheritance, it is very apparent that something is wrong with his state of mind. Regan and Goneril discuss this in Act 1 Scene 1; "You see how full of change his age is. The observation we have made of it hath not been little. He always loved our sister most, and with what poor judgment he hath now cast her off appears too grossly" (Shakespeare, act 1 scene 1, lines 290-294). His condition only gets worse as the story unfolds.In Act 1 Scene 4, Lear seems to recognize that he is slipping. While talking to the fool, he is brought to realize that he was wrong in banishing Cordelia. He looks as if he might get a hold of his weakening mind, but this does not last for long. At the end of the first act, Lear begs the heavens not to let him become crazy; "O, let me not be mad, not mad, sweet heaven! Keep me in temper; I would not be mad" (Shakespeare, act 1 scene1, lines 46-47). He now knows that something is wrong, but it is beyond his power to stop it. We see this as Act 2 progresses.In scene 4, Lear engages in an argument with Regan and Goneril about the number of servants that he is allowed to have stay with him. He first asks Goneril to let him stay with a hundred men. She denies this request and tells him that fifty will suffice. He then turns to Regan for the approval men. She allows only twenty-five to stay. Lear then says, "Those wicked creatures yet do look well-favored when others are more wicked; not being the worst stands in some rank of praise. [To Goneril] I'll go...

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