Shakespeare's King Lear

Shakespeare's King


Shakespeare's tragedy King Lear is a detailed
description of the consequences of one man's decisions. This
fictitious man is Lear, King of England, who's decisions greatly
alter his life and the lives of those around him. As Lear bears
the status of King he is, as one expects, a man of great power but
sinfully he surrenders all of this power to his daughters as a reward for
their demonstration of love towards him. This untimely abdication
of his throne results in a chain reaction of events that send him
through a journey of hell. King Lear is a metaphorical description
of one man's journey through hell in order to expiate his sin.

As the play opens one can almost immediately
see that Lear begins to make mistakes that will eventually result
in his downfall. The very first words that he speaks in the
play are :- "...Give me the map there. Know that we have
divided In three our kingdom, and 'tis our fast intent To shake all cares
and business from our age, Conferring them on younger strengths while we

Unburdened crawl to death..."
(Act I, Sc i, Ln 38-41) This gives the reader the first indication of Lear's
intent to abdicate his throne. He goes on further to offer
pieces of his kingdom to his daughters as a form of reward to his
test of love. "Great rivals in our youngest daughter's
love, Long in our court have made their amorous
sojourn, And here are to be answered. Tell me, my
daughters (Since now we will divest us both of rule, Interest of territory,
cares of state), Which of you shall we say doth love us most? That we our
largest bounty may extend where nature doth with merit challenge."
(Act I, Sc i, Ln 47-53) This is the first
and most significant of the many sins that he makes in this play.

By abdicating his throne to fuel his ego he is disrupts the great
chain of being which states that the King must not challenge the
position that God has given him. This undermining of God's
authority results in chaos that tears apart Lear's world. Leaving
him, in the end, with nothing. Following this Lear begins to
banish those around him that genuinely care for him as at this
stage he cannot see beyond the mask that the evil wear. He banishes

Kent, a loyal servant to Lear, and his youngest and previously most
loved daughter Cordelia. This results in Lear surrounding himself
with people who only wish to use him which leaves him very vulnerable
attack. This is precisely what happens and it is through this
that he discovers his wrongs and amends them.

Following the committing of his sins, Lear
becomes abandoned and estranged from his kingdom which causes him
to loose insanity. While lost in his grief and self-pity the
fool is introduced to guide Lear back to the sane world and to help
find the lear that was ounce lost behind a hundred Knights but now
is out in the open and scared like a little child. The fact
that Lear has now been pushed out from behind his Knights is dramatically
represented by him actually being out on the lawns of his castle.

The terrified little child that is now unsheltered is dramatically
portrayed by Lear's sudden insanity and his rage and anger is seen
through the thunderous weather that is being experienced.

All of this contributes to the suffering of Lear due to the gross
sins that he has committed.

The pinnacle of this hell that is experienced
be Lear in order to repay his sins is at the end of the play when

Cordelia is killed. Lear says this before he himself dies as
he cannot live without his daughter. "Howl, howl, howl! O, you are men
of stones. Had I your tongues and eyes, I'd use them so That heaven's vault
should crack. She's gone for ever! I know
when one is dead, and when one lives. She's dead as earth. Lend me a looking
glass. If that her breath will mist or stain the
stone, Why, then she lives."
(Act V, Sc iii, Ln 306-312)

All of this pain that Lear suffered is traced back to the single
most important error that he made. The choice to give up his
throne. This one sin has proven to have massive repercussions
upon Lear and the lives of those around him eventually killing almost
all of those who were involved. And one is left to ask one's
self if a single wrong turn can do this to Lear then what difficult
corner lies ahead that ma cause similar alterations in one's life.

Reference List Shakespeare, William. King Lear. Eric A.

McCann, ed.