'lear's Suffering Is Due To The Stripping Away Of His Identity'. By Considering The Dramatic Presentation Of King Lear, Evaluate This View

1831 words - 8 pages

'Lear's suffering is due to the stripping away of his identity'. By considering the dramatic presentation of King Lear, evaluate this view.

Shakespeare presents that the stripping away of King Lear's identity is largely responsible for much of his suffering throughout the play. Lear's identity can be seen as lost partly through his own actions, as well as the actions of others, in particular that of his daughters, Goneril and Regan.

It can be argued that Lear's loss of identity is down to his own actions. Hence, he can be seen as responsible for causing his own suffering. According to A.C. Bradley 'The idea of the tragic hero as being destroyed simply and solely by external forces ...view middle of the document...

Furthermore, certain characters continue to show respect to Lear. Kent remains loyal to Lear throughout the play, in both how he addresses and serves him - '...you have that in your countenance which I would fain to call master'. Lear therefore still feels that not all elements of his identity have been stolen, as he still believes he holds the position of authority over those who show him loyalty. Likewise, when Oswald identifies Lear as nothing more than 'My Lady's Father', Lear is appalled that he should be addressed in such a manner, as he believes that his position of power is still intact. As a result of this, Lear seems to suffer little as a result of his actions, until later on in the play when he realises that it is not just his responsibility that has been taken away, but his whole identity.

Further on in the play, Lear’s identity as a father is also questioned.  However, in this instance, the power in which Goneril and Regan have acquired from receiving their father's kingdom has been used against Lear to reverse the Great Chain of Being, so as a result, the suffering Lear experiences can be seen as a consequence of the actions of others rather than his own. Lawrence Danson reminds us that 'Linked to tragic self-consciousness is a consciousness of the social or divine economies which limit, as they also in part define, the self; we'll notice the tragic struggle between individual autonomy. And some shaping force which limits that autonomy'. Here, Danson explains that the downfall of the tragic hero is not always down to their own actions, but can also be due to the influence of outside forces as well. Goneril and Regan can be seen as 'outside forces', having an influence on Lear's loss of identity. The fixed hierarchy established through this Elizabethan idea is threatened by Goneril and Regan's attempts to use their newly-gained power to control their father, who would have been placed higher than them in the natural order of the universe. This breaking of the Chain of Being upsets that established order, and consequently brings about disorder for Lear. Goneril remarks that “Old fools are babes again, and must be used / With checks as flatteries, when they are seen abused”.  She plans to control Lear with rebukes because he has become prone to flattery. With this statement, Goneril strips Lear of his identity as father and bestows the power upon herself.  Here she has stripped him of any familial power and herself of any filial duty towards him.

In addition to their rejection of his identity of father and head of the family, Lear's daughters strip him of the outward signs of masculinity.  His knights are not only a symbol of his status, but also of his masculinity and potency.  The idea that the larger an individual’s train is directly related to that person’s power is at play here, with Goneril and Regan’s reduction of the number of Lear’s knights they are willing to house.  Lear is entirely at the mercies of his...

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