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The Protagonist's Attainment Of Self Knowledge Shines Through The Darkness In Nino Ricci's Lives Of The Saints And Shakespeare's King Lear.

1929 words - 8 pages

Tragedies, be they modern or renaissance, rarely manifest a positive nature that transcends the bleakness of their character. The protagonist’s attainment of self-knowledge shines through the darkness in Nino Ricci’s Lives of the Saints and Shakespeare’s King Lear. The tragedy evolves from the beginning and reaches its apex, resulting in the protagonist’s acquisition of self-recognition and consequently outshines the catatonia of the story. Both main characters are more sinned against than sinning yet their suffering is necessary because it allows them to gain knowledge that they would not have otherwise obtained.From the very first scene, the reader sees the darkness manifest in King Lear. Lear, a proud monarch used to getting his own way, decides to make a show of dividing his kingdom between his three daughters. To his misfortune, he commits three fatal sins that eventually lead to his despair. First, in a shocking display of rage, he disowns his honorable daughter, Cordelia, when she tries to be sincere towards him. He responds with, “Better thou/Hadst not been born than not to have pleased me better” (1.1.67). In a similar blunder, he banishes his faithful servant, Kent. Finally, as he divides his land between his two evil daughters, Goneril and Regan, his fate is sealed and the process of this bleak tragedy is set into motion.The darkness in Lives of the Saints is established later in the novel, beginning with Vittorio witnessing a blue-eyed stranger fleeing the shed where Cristina, Vittorio’s mother, has been bitten by a snake. It’s downhill for Vittorio from here as, though she survives the snakebite, his mother’s illicit affair with the blue-eyed stranger is somehow made public to the entire town, who respond in a superstitious and unfriendly manner. New to all these dark facets of human nature, Vittorio is confused, resentful and only wants to know the truth. His mother’s secrecy begins to rip their relationship apart. He describes how, ”I had got it out now, spit out my resentment like something that had stuck in my throat. But an instant later my face was burning: my mother had slapped me, hard, against the cheek” (71). The village turning against their family, his bitter thrust into the world of deceit and contradiction and the tension that hangs in the air throughout the town are the beginnings of the long and painful suffering that will eventually lead Vittorio to his self-recognition.The apex of Lear’s suffering occurs during his time on the heath. As his despair peaks, Lear copes with the problems besieging him by willingly submitting to the strength of the storm rather than seeking shelter or fighting for his sanity. His daughters’ betrayal has driven him to utter madness. He loses his grip on reality, assuming a wretch in similar anguish (namely Poor Tom) has also suffered at the hands of wicked daughters and holding a mock trial for Goneril and Regan. Lear...

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