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Lear's Character In William Shakespeare's Play

1938 words - 8 pages

Lear's Character in William Shakespeare's Play
The view of Lear being bent on his own destruction from the beginning
of the play is an acceptable claim. The way he begins in the play,
dividing up his country for his daughters, in essence, this spelt
disaster. Unlike other renaissance dramatists, who used ‘mad scenes’
for comic use, Shakespeare seems intent on displaying madness in a
more sinister portrayal.

In favour of the claim, much can be said. In his thought process of
dividing up his kingdom, it would appear, that nothing went through
his mind to make him question what he was doing. When the audience,
and indeed the characters first formally hear of the division of the
country, Lear says,

‘…’tis our fast intent to shake all cares and business from our age’

here, and later on in his speech, Lear says that the responsibility of
the nation must be transferred to younger shoulders, and that those of
the older generations should wait, and crawl to their death. To the
audience, as indeed to later analysers of the play, this may have been
an early indicator to what was going to happen later in the play. The
fact that Lear says that the country should be divided, the
responsibilities taken from the shoulders of the elder generation, and
that the elder generation should wait and crawl to their death, is
mildly disturbing, considering he was the king. The thought processes
needed to muster a decision like this, must have been made by one
under either considerable strain, or one of a limited mental capacity.
Dividing ones country up, while king, to your sons in law and claiming
all that is left for you to do, is crawl to your death, there is
little, if any sense here.

The behaviour of Lear with his followers differs throughout the novel.
To begin with, his devout followers such as Kent and Gloucester, pious
and virtuous to the king, as were the masses which served him. But as
the play progresses, he loses his masses, because he loses his crown.
But, throughout the novel, Kent remains loyal to the king. Lear
behaves (laddish) with his knights, they go out and hunt: spend all
day out in the country, and return demanding Food and care. Such
childlike behaviour is this, that Goneril has an outburst at her
father, she says;

“Men so disordered …that this, our court… Shows like a riotous inn”
===================================================================

Goneril then says;

“…epicurism and lust

Makes it more like a tavern or a Brothel”

Anchoring the facet that Lear, with his knights is childish. Goneril
speaks her mind of what Lear, claiming the manner of the knights, and
indeed her father, resemble that of a brothel. Lear claims outrage at
...

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