King Lear’s Redemption
William Shakespeare’s “The Tragedy of King Lear” is a different kind of tragedy than Macbeth or Hamlet or any of the typical Shakespearian tragedies. While ordinarily, Shakespeare writes on a sort of binary- his tragedies are all sad and everyone ends up dying, and his comedies are lighter, this takes a sort of different route. While the story is doubtless tragic, by the end, instead of being entirely depressing, King Lear experiences revelation and therefore, redemption.
Although the story itself is mostly tragic, the fact that Lear has this revelation and becomes a better person makes the story altogether more uplifting. It is his change of values which lead him to becoming a better human being, and for the purposes of the play, a better father to the one daughter who was actually loyal to him, Cordelia.
At the beginning of the play, King Lear ...view middle of the document...
The fact that he was not content with this answer just shows how selfish he is at the beginning of the play.
After he banishes his one loyal daughter, who is loved by all of the “good” characters in the play and realizes how evil his other two daughters are, Lear makes a descent into madness. Only when Lear is completely out of his right mind does he realize the errors of his previous ways, and although he has lost his mind, he stands to gain a lot during this portion of the play. The fact that he feels alone in the world without his family or his kingdom and without the power of his mind is what gives him humility, what gives him shame. It is when he is mad that his values change, and he becomes caring, and values his daughter for who she is instead of what she can give him and how she can make him feel better.
With these newfound values, Lear can finally realize the error in his ways and he can see the wrongs he has done. He feels so, so badly about the way he treated her and the kindness which she still shows to him, that he said, “If you have poison for me, I will drink it” (125, 72). This selflessness, this recognition of how wrong he was is something which the old Lear, the Lear from the beginning of the play would never have shown. He explains to Cordelia that while her sisters have no reason to hate their father, that she does, and in some ways she should. Cordelia, however, was always the mature, loving daughter she always was, and responds with, “No cause, no cause” (126, 75), signifying that he is still her father. The natural order of things still exists, and in this reply to her father she is allowing him to be redeemed. He went from being a selfish tyrant to a loving father, and although the play ends with Cordelia’s tragic death and it ends in sadness, the final image of the play is more about Lear’s redemption than the sadness, as this redemption of the main character allows the audience to forgive him. This forgiveness from the audience is what makes “King Lear” stand out among other tragedies.