The Tragic Character in King Lear
In William Shakespeare’s King Lear, the similar events that Lear and Gloucester experience result in a parallel plot sequence for the story. Lear and Gloucester are similar characters because they are experiencing similar problems while playing the role of a father. Their children also have a similar eagerness for power, a problem that both Lear and Gloucester should not have to deal with while addressing serious mental and physical dilemmas. And although the two characters are very similar, the story of King Lear is tragic, and Gloucester’s is not.
Lear’s tragedy is a result of bringing fate upon himself, which in turn stripes Lear of everything, and only in his final moments does Lear resolve some of his problems with a catharsis. To ensure that Lear’s story is indeed tragic while Gloucester’s is not, an examination of tragedy is necessary. Also, the overall situation and well being of the two characters is helpful in deciding who brings upon their own problems, and who becomes a victim throughout the play. Decisions made by Lear are also determining factors of tragedy, even from the very beginning of the play. The events that Lear and Gloucester experience are similar, but their positions in society are different. Consequences are much higher for mistakes made by Kings, rather than mistakes made by the Earl of Gloucester.
Aristotle says that a real tragedy is an imitation of an action that is serious or grave involving someone of elevated status. The same person, however, brought demise to one’s own self and to the surrounding characters. When Lear gives up his kingdom to his daughters, he has completely ceased any continuation of the family’s lineage to the throne. Also lost along with Lear’s kingdom is a substantial amount of power over the people. With Lear inevitably losing his throne in the near future, the people stop listening to him. The noble Kent tries to convince Lear that he has made a mistake. He advises: “See better, Lear, and let me still remain the true blank of thine eye.” (p. 6) After this comment, Lear becomes angry with Kent and exiles him for life. Gloucester’s issues are much more minor: there is little disruption from the man, only anger brought upon him by his bastard son Edmund. Gloucester would not fit Aristotle’s definition of a tragic figure; nobody will show interest for the unfortunate events Gloucester goes through.
The children of Lear and Gloucester follow similar story lines, as greed becomes the character flaw among many of the players. The action taken by Lear leaves a tempting opportunity for Reagan and Goneril when Lear decides to divide his kingdom. Lear enters the room and says: “Meantime we shall express our darker purpose…To...