AD's English Literature : Major Questions in William Shakespeare's KING LEAR

Major Questions in William Shakespeare's KING LEAR



***Is Lear a man more sinned against – than sinning?
            This question relates to the whole issue and theme of justice, and its existence or otherwise in King Lear. On the one hand Lear gives in to flattery, makes a bad decision to split his kingdom, and when he does so splits it unfairly. He banishes cruelly the only daughter who loves him, and a nobleman who is devoted to his service. He attempts to live like a king with none of a king’s responsibilities of duties, and takes himself out into a storm when his followers are dismissed. On the other hand he is punished for his lack of self – knowledge his vanity, and his inability to distinguish the truth from falsehood by losing his wealth, his sanity, his daughter, and finally his life. He was certainly sinned, but only through common faults which under different circumstances might have gone unnoticed and unpunished.

***Why does Lear go mad?
            Lear goes mad because he is robbed of the honour, respect, and kindness due to a king, a father and an old man. He cannot avoid the realization that these are being denied him; he cannot face the realization that it is partly through his own fault, and the conflict tears his mind apart. Also the denial of family implicit his treatment suggests a collapse in the order that binds the universe together. His suffering enforces self – knowledge, his which initially he cannot cope. His suffering and part – knowledge also show him a hitherto unsuspected cruel and harsh world where good and evil a like die and suffer. This new insight (as is the case with Hamlet) induces madness and helps to preserve it in him.

***What is the function of the Full?
            The Fool provides humour in the play by parodying its serious themes. He also shows the audience the truth through his capacity to see things in their bare essentials. He provides a common sense vision of events in the play. He acts like a Chorus, pointing out what is happening and increasing the pain and the pathos by his humour. He alone realizes fully the incongruities that typify the play – the king reduced to a beggar, the Fool the only wise man in the court, and so forth. When Lear attains a similar degree of knowledge and insight in and after his madness, the Fool is seen no more: he is no longer necessary, because Lear has taken his place.

***How effective is the Portrait of Cordelia?
            Cordelia is the only daughter who loves her father truly. She is banished unfairly, but returns to save him when he is in need and when she could easily have left him. She cherishes and loves him to the utmost. As such she appears to offer a portrait of complete goodness. One drawback to her portrayal is that, of necessity, she vanishes off the scene for quite a while, during which time the audience may lose interest in her. It is sometimes asked why she does not flatter her father. This would an old man. By being so brutally honest and refusing to change her mind she brings about no positive result, and in fact helps to ensure the destruction of her father by given the kingdom to Goneril and Regan. She has been described as a bore, and as stubborn as her father.


Ref: 1. History of English Literature- Albert     
      2. Shakespearean Tragedies- A. C. Bradley 

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