To What Extent Has Your Personal Response Of King Lear Been Shaped By The Enduring Power Of Shakespeare’s Characterisation Of The Play?

898 words - 4 pages

The 17th Century play ‘King Lear’ has ensured its relevance to contemporary society through dramatic unity and textual integrity, however, in my personal response above all else is Shakespeare’s prescient characterisation of Lear’s identity struggle that has ensured the play’s universal significance and value to humanity. While the family tragedy of King Lear is prevalent in both plot and sub plot, after an in depth study of the play I believe the most discerning tragedy is that of individual identity and the concern for human kind.

Lear’s struggle with his identity as King, father and man unites and propels the entire play as foreshadowed by Lear’s “Who is it who can tell me who I am?” ...view middle of the document...

Lear’s foolish banishment of Kent and Cordelia is warned against by his loyal servant who pleas “See better Lear” foreshadowing his mental discrepancy and lack of clarity. Lear’s abdication of the throne is masked in selfishness declaring, “Shake our cares and business of our age”. As a King Lear is unable to discriminate between power and privilege, forced to abandon his “insolent retinue” and as he irrationally enters the howling storm. As a father, Lear is similarly blinded by the insincere flatteries of Goneril and Regan, failing to notice that Cordelia “art most rich being poor”. In entering the storm Lear descends materially, however it allows him to gain moral perception and consider his ethical flaws. The Lear of the storm is characterised as gaining a sense of humility, recognising “Oh I have ta’en too little care of this”. His “philosopher” Poor Tom makes Lear consider his own misguided sense of identity, “robes and furred gowns hide all”, but ultimately “man art but a poor, bare forked animal”. Shakespeare employs this tormenting metaphor to insinuate Lear’s emotional insight, redeeming himself from Kent’s predicament, but only temporarily.

Lear’s journey from King to Man regresses further still, as he emerges from the storm “crowned in rank furrow weeds” Shakespeare employs the meta-image of Lear’s re-birth as a child of nature. Subsequently, Lear’s relationship with Cordelia highlights Lear’s devastating reversion from his enlightened state of humility to that of a helpless child. Lear uses whimsical imagery in projecting his absurd fantasy of banishment with Cordelia “birds sing i’th cage”. Shakespeare uses characterisation to indicate Cordelia assuming the role of the mother/...

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