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Analysis of Shakespeare`s King Lear - Personal Statement Example

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The author gives detailed information about the plot of Shakespeare`s King Lear play, gives characteristics of the main characters and discloses the play theme of filial ingratitude which echoed in the parallel plot of Gloucester, Edgar, and Edmund …
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Analysis of Shakespeare`s King Lear
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Shakespeare: King Lear.
William Shakespeare’s “King Lear” was first performed at the court of King James I in 1605, at a time when the author enjoyed great recognition. Shakespeare was largely influenced by a play entitled The True Chronicle History of King Leir. The Annesley lawsuit of 1603, involving the attempt of two daughters to have their father declared insane so that they could claim his property, may also have inspired Shakespeare. It is significant that the third Annesley daughter was named Cordell. “King Lear” is a drama in five Acts, and is written in blank verse.
The play begins with King Lear dividing his kingdom between his two deceitful elder daughters, Regan and Goneril, while disinheriting his true youngest daughter, Cordelia. Cordelia marries the King of France and leaves the country. The rising action deals with Regan and Goneril’s cruel abandonment of their father, who becomes a penniless, old man who is ultimately driven to insanity. Cordelia returns to England with a French army to help her father and is reunited with the insane Lear. However, her army is defeated. At the climax of the play, the scheming Edmund, the illegitimate son of the loyal Gloucester, causes Cordelia to be hanged. Goneril poisons Regan, and kills herself, when Edmund is fatally wounded in a duel with his brother, Edgar. Lear dies of grief. The play ends with Edgar becoming the king of England while the other important surviving characters choose to live in grief.
“King Lear” is set in ancient England. It mirrors the intrigue and violence which characterized the political landscape of Shakespeare’s time, as seen in the Gunpowder Plot, the massacre of St. Bartholomew and the life of Mary Queen of Scots. Shakespeare lived in the Renaissance era and his play deals with the power of a father, the chaos which results when the laws of nature are overlooked, and the complications caused by the absence of a male heir.
The storm which rages in the play is symbolic of the chaos which reigns in the lives of the dramatis personae. The storm also heightens the sorry plight of the characters who have to face the elements. The point of view adopted by Shakespeare in “King Lear” allows the reader to be omniscient and look into the minds of all the characters through asides and thinking out loud.
The characters in the play stand out distinctly. Lear comes across as easily misled by flattery. However, he evolves over the course of the play and even develops an empathy with the poor and homeless in the storm. Even after he becomes insane, he demonstrates remorse and shame which prevent him from consenting to see Cordelia. Finally, he exhibits great dignity. The so-called fool speaks the wisest words in the drama. Gloucester clearly sees Lear’s folly and his daughters’ scheming - yet he himself is taken in by Edmund’s perfidy.
The theme of “King Lear” is clearly filial ingratitude. This theme echoes throughout the play in the laments of King Lear (“How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is /To have a thankless child!”). The theme is also echoed in the parallel plot of Gloucester, Edgar and Edmund. While the honest, plain-talking Kent, Albany, Edgar, and Cordelia are shown to be completely good and the villainous sisters and Cornwall are depicted as totally bad, Edmund is painted more subtly. His villainy is caused by his bitterness over his illegitimate birth. His magnetism is evident in the fact that both Goneril and Regan rival for his affections. After all his betrayals, he longs to do some good before he dies. I find his character the most fascinating in the play. “King Lear” makes one ponder on the relationship between parents and children.
Works Cited.
Shakespeare, William. “King Lear.” Ed. Editor's Name(s). City of Publication: Publisher, Year.
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