Presentation on theme: "All You Need To Know About King Lear!. New Criticism (or Formalist Criticism) In the past it was believed that a composer created a text and put all of."— Presentation transcript:
All You Need To Know About King Lear!
New Criticism (or Formalist Criticism) In the past it was believed that a composer created a text and put all of the meaning into it All the reader had to do was to “figure out” what the writer meant This meant that the meaning of a text was always fixed and never changed
Themes Of King Lear Some ideas that Shakespeare may have wanted to explore are: A) Vision & Blindness References to eyes & seeing are a recurring motif in the play. Some examples are: “Dearer than eyesight…”
Themes Of King Lear (cont’d) “See better Lear…” “Old fond eyes…I’ll pluck you out…” *Gloucester having his eyes plucked out “Get thee glass eyes…to see the things thou dost not” “I have no want of eyes, I stumbled when I saw” Your Task- Find some more quotes related to blindness, vision, the eyes etc
Themes Of King Lear (cont’d) B) Truth, Deception & Disguise No-one in the play is what they seem to be: Goneril & Regan seem loving but are not Cordelia seems unloving but is not Edmund seems loyal but is not Edgar seems treacherous but is not Kent returns in disguise Edgar returns in disguise
Themes Of King Lear (cont’d) There are constant references to truth in the play, such as: “So young my Lord and true” “I can keep honest counsel…” “That such a slave should wear a sword who wears no honesty…” “He must speak truth…” “On whose foolish honesty my practices ride…” Your Task- Find some more quotes that relate to truth, honesty or deception
Themes Of King Lear (cont’d) C) Madness & Reason There is a constant interplay between reason & insanity in the play. Notice how The Fool often speaks most wisely. Some quotes that relate to this theme are: -”Be Kent unmannerly when Lear is mad…” -”I would not be mad…” “Thou should not have been old before thou east wise…” “Reason in madness…” Your Task-Find some more quotes and examples related to madness & reason.
Themes Of King Lear (cont’d) D) Gods Or A Godless Universe (Order vs Chaos) King Lear is a bleak play and seems to question, at times, whether we live in a chaotic, Godless universe: -”Thy swearest thy gods in vain…” -”As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods. They kill us for their sport” “The stars above us govern our condition” “Upon such sacrifices the gods themselves throw incence” Your Task- Find some more quotes related to the Gods
Shakespeare’s Techniques & Devices We now understand some of the ideas that Shakespeare explored in his text-but we must also understand how he communicated those ideas. Some dramatic techniques used by Shakespeare included: -Dramatic Irony-e.g. we know that Goneril, Regan & Edmund are sinister, but their fathers do not -Natural Sympathy-as chaos reigns in the human world it is reflected in the natural world through the eclipse, the storm etc
Shakespeare’s Techniques & Devices (cont’d) -Motifs-recurring ideas such as eyes -Symbolism-those motifs symbolise aspects of the human condition (e.g. the eye motif symbolises Lear’s blindness) -Imagery-e.g. Goneril & Regan are often described using animal imagery-”How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child”, She’ll flay thy wolfish visage”, Sharp toothed unkindness, like a vulture”, “Tigers not daughter etc” -Soliloquy-used to reveal a character’s inner thoughts -Juxtaposition-e.g. of the Lear & Gloucester stories Your Task- List each of the Dramatic Devices above and find one new example of each from the text
Reader Response Criticism In recent times, though, it has been accepted that the responder also makes meaning in a text Each responder will read a text differently and meaning will change. These ideas came (in part) from the work of Roland Barthes who declared that “The Death Of The Author” because, he said, meaning came from the connections of language and culture made by the Responder.
Critical Perspectives-What Factors Affect The Way A Person Reads A Text? Different people will read a text differently because: They live in different times (Context) They live in different places (Culture) They have different attitudes, values and beliefs They are male or female (Gender, Patriarchy, Feminism) They come from different classes in society (Marxism)
Critical Perspectives-Flaubert’s Parrot (Julian Barnes) “The past is a receding coastline and we are on a boat. Along the side of the boat is a line of telescopes. Each telescope seems to show the whole, the unchanging truth. But this is an illusion, each telescope shows only a part of the whole”
Some Readings Of King Lear King Lear can be read in different ways: A) Formalist Criticism-All the meaning of the text is found within the text. The text is only about the ideas that Shakespeare was interested in. B) Biographical Criticism-It is a text which reflects Shakespeare’s own life & fears (e.g. about old age, dying etc) C) Historical Criticism-It is a text which reflects the values & attitudes of the culture in which it was composed (e.g. The Feudal System, The Divine Right Of Kings etc)
Some Readings Of King Lear D) Gender Criticism-It is a text about Patriarchy and what happens when men surrender power to women E)Mythological Criticism-It is a text which appropriates iconic, mythical stories (e.g. Cinderella, the myth of Paris, the myth of Psyche etc) F)Christian Criticism-It is a text about sin and redemption
Some Readings Of King Lear G) Feminist Criticism-It is a text about a strong female hero (Cordelia) who challenges the patriarchal inequality of her society H) Freudean Criticism-It is a text that explores psychological issues related to incest & parental abuse I) Marxist Criticism-It is a text that explores what happens when the wealthy and powerful lose their status
Some Readings Of King Lear J) Existentialist Reading-Existentialism is the idea that, although there is no controlling force in the universe (i.e. no God), individuals have the power to make their own destiny. K) Reader Response Criticism-It is a text in which we have to find our own meaning based on our own context & experiences.
Some Interpretations Of King Lear Over time different people have read Lear in different ways: -A retelling of a contemporary Court Case in which Brian Annesley was unjustly treated by two of his daughters but defended by his third, Cordell -A retelling of the Phillip Sydney’s The Tale Of The Blind King Of Paphlagonia
Some Interpretations Of The Play -Freud saw the play as exploring the connection between love & death in a mythological context. In Freud’s reading Cordelia is the Goddess Of Death and the three sisters represent the Three Fates of Greek Mythology (responsible for life & death). The play then, becomes a story about a man rejecting and then accepting death. At the end of the play then, although Lear carries Cordelia, Cordelia bears him away into death.
Key Scenes-Act 1 Scene 1 In Act 1 Scene 1 Lear abdicates the throne. He intends to divide the kingdom among his 3 daughters but, when Cordelia refuses to speak of her love for him, he gives his kingdom to Goneril & Regan.
Key Scenes-Act 1 Scene 1 Act 1 Scene 1-A Patriarchal Reading. Although Goneril & Regan seem to be strong characters they are still dependent upon the King for their power, status & wealth. From a Patriarchal perspective the play explores how women are dependent upon or marginalised and excluded by men. When Lear gives power to women, the natural order is disturbed and the world descends into chaos (symbolised by the storm, the eclipse etc)
Key Scenes-Act 1 Scene 1 Act 1 Scene 1-A Feminist Reading Feminism explores the role of women in texts. By refusing to publicly express her love for Lear Cordelia may be seen as a hero who challenges the gender inequalities of her time
Key Scenes-Act 1 Scene 1 Act 1 Scene 1-A Marxist Reading. Marxism explores the social roles of people in texts. By surrendering the throne Lear is thrown into a life of poverty. This also happens to Cordelia, Kent & Edgar. A Marxist Reading, then, might argue that the text is an exploration of the different lives led by the rich and the poor.
Key Scenes-Act 1 Scene 1 Act 1 Scene 1-A Freudean Reading. A Freudean Reading seeks to understand the psychology of the characters. The play has undertones of incest. A Freudean Reading, then, might argue that Lear descends into madness because he is unable to cope with Cordelia’s rejection of him.
Key Scenes-Act 1 Scene 1 Act 1 Scene 1-An Intertextual Appropriation. The story of a Father who favours 2 daughters over a third is a recurring one in literature. Thus, it could be argued that King Lear is an appropriation of stories such as Cinderella, Paris, Psyche etc.
The Storm Scene At the end of Act 2 King Lear is rejected by Goneril & Regan and, in a rage, runs out into a storm. He finds a hovel in which to take shelter How are we to interpret this?
The Storm Scene-Literary Symbolism Shakespeare may have used the storm to symbolise Lear’s inner anger and confusion. The disorder in the natural world would then represent the disorder in the human world.
The Storm Scene-Divine Right Of Kings In Shakespeare’s time there was a belief in The Divine Right Of Kings- that monarchs were chosen by God Thus, when Lear gives up the throne to his daughters he upsets the natural order (symbolized by the eclipse, the storm etc)
The Storm Scene-A Patriarchal Interpretation In Shakespeare’s time women were excluded from power. Patriarchy (rule by men) was predominant. Thus, by surrendering power to women Lear upsets what was seen as “the natural order” throwing the world into chaos and confusion
The Storm Scene-A Marxist Reading When Lear gives the throne to Goneril & Regan he falls from a position of status & power to one of poverty Some claim the play is an exploration of what happens when people (Lear, Cordelia, Kent, Edgar etc) lose their power & status This comes to a climax in the Storm scene when Lear takes shelter in a hovel
The Final Scene-What Ideas Did Shakespeare Want To Communicate? 1) The Importance of returning the world to its “natural” order * Read notes on The Chain of Being, The Divine Right of Kings, The Wheel of fortune * Note the following quotes: “The wheel is come full circle” “I am the natural fool of fortune” “A poor man made tame to fortune’s blows” “I am bound upon the wheel of fire”
The Final Scene-What Ideas Did Shakespeare Want To Communicate? 2)The Restoration of Patriarchal Power *Lear says of Cordelia “Her voice was ever soft, gentle and low-an excellent thing in woman”
The Final Scene-What Ideas Did Shakespeare Want To Communicate? 3) Christian Redemption & Resurrection * Note that the storm ends when Lear goes to pray * Both Gloucester & Lear are “resurrected”, they both believe that they have died and are then “reborn” *Both Gloucester & Lear are reconciled with their child
The Final Scene-What Ideas Did Shakespeare Want To Communicate? 3) Christian Redemption & Resurrection *Gloucester & Lear both recognise their sin and seek forgiveness *Even Edmond finds his inner goodness “Some good I mean to do” *Note the change in the attitude to God. In the first 3 scenes God is often cursed and condemned. In the last 2 scenes the characters embrace God e.g. “The gods are just”
King Lear Themes
Nothingness Cordelia has nothing to say to her father when he requests she praise him with her love. Cordelia has nothing to say to her father when he requests she praise him with her love. King Lear has nothing to give Cordelia because she has no words for him. King Lear has nothing to give Cordelia because she has no words for him. Kent has no job because he disagreed with King Lear. Kent has no job because he disagreed with King Lear. Burgundy has no wife because Cordelia comes with no dowry. Burgundy has no wife because Cordelia comes with no dowry.
Nothingness Edmund has no title and will do anything to get one Edmund has no title and will do anything to get one Goneril, Regan, & Edmund have no morals Goneril, Regan, & Edmund have no morals Gloucester has no eyes Gloucester has no eyes Edgar has nobody he can trust Edgar has nobody he can trust It is unnatural that King Lear would give up his land and authority before he died. It is unnatural that King Lear would give up his land and authority before he died. Gloucester committed an unnatural act by committing adultery under the stars. Gloucester committed an unnatural act by committing adultery under the stars.
Blindness When many characters can literally see, they are figuratively blind BUT when they are literally blind, they can, for the first time, figuratively see When many characters can literally see, they are figuratively blind BUT when they are literally blind, they can, for the first time, figuratively see King Lear is figuratively blind to the fact that Goneril and Regan are lying to him about how much they love him King Lear is figuratively blind to the fact that Goneril and Regan are lying to him about how much they love him King Lear is figuratively blind to the fact that Cordelia truly loves him King Lear is figuratively blind to the fact that Cordelia truly loves him King Lear is figuratively blind to the fact that Kent only has his best interest at heart. King Lear is figuratively blind to the fact that Kent only has his best interest at heart. Gloucester is figuratively blind to the fact that Edmund is dishonest and the fact that Edgar is always faithful Gloucester is figuratively blind to the fact that Edmund is dishonest and the fact that Edgar is always faithful
Blindness Albany is figuratively blind to the fact that Goneril is an evil woman because of his great devotion to her. Albany is figuratively blind to the fact that Goneril is an evil woman because of his great devotion to her. Gloucester is literally blinded because Cornwall, Regan, and Goneril consider him a traitor for helping King Lear after they threw Lear out into the tempest. Gloucester is literally blinded because Cornwall, Regan, and Goneril consider him a traitor for helping King Lear after they threw Lear out into the tempest.
Ingratitude of Others Goneril & Reagan are ungrateful for all their father has given them Goneril & Reagan are ungrateful for all their father has given them King Lear is ungrateful for being taken care of by his daughters King Lear is ungrateful for being taken care of by his daughters Burgundy is ungrateful for the gift of Cordelia which he was offered Burgundy is ungrateful for the gift of Cordelia which he was offered Edmund is ungrateful for the fact that his father loves him and accepts him as a legitimate son Edmund is ungrateful for the fact that his father loves him and accepts him as a legitimate son
Appearances vs Reality At the beginning of the play, the Lears and other characters are presented as normal and caring. But as Shakespeare rubs away the pretty veneers of the characters, we find greed, betrayal, lust for power, and cruelty. In other words, they are anything but normal and caring. At the beginning of the play, the Lears and other characters are presented as normal and caring. But as Shakespeare rubs away the pretty veneers of the characters, we find greed, betrayal, lust for power, and cruelty. In other words, they are anything but normal and caring.
Loyality King Lear is disloyal to Cordelia, yet she is loyal to King Lear King Lear is disloyal to Cordelia, yet she is loyal to King Lear King Lear is disloyal to Kent, yet he is loyal to King Lear King Lear is disloyal to Kent, yet he is loyal to King Lear Goneril & Regan are disloyal to King Lear and he treats them poorly too. Goneril & Regan are disloyal to King Lear and he treats them poorly too. Goneril is disloyal to Albany, yet he is loyal to her until he discovers her attempt on his life. Goneril is disloyal to Albany, yet he is loyal to her until he discovers her attempt on his life. Gloucester is disloyal to Edgar, yet Edgar remains loyal to Gloucester Gloucester is disloyal to Edgar, yet Edgar remains loyal to Gloucester Edmund is disloyal to Gloucester, yet Gloucester is loyal to Gloucester Edmund is disloyal to Gloucester, yet Gloucester is loyal to Gloucester Edmund is disloyal to both Goneril and Regan. Edmund is disloyal to both Goneril and Regan.
Justice Greed and lust result in the character’s downfall Greed and lust result in the character’s downfall Duke of Cornwall has Kent placed in the stocks and Gloucester’s eyes plucked out so towards the end of the play, he is killed. Duke of Cornwall has Kent placed in the stocks and Gloucester’s eyes plucked out so towards the end of the play, he is killed. Lear banishes Cordelia and Kent then so Lear driven out into the storm by his own wicked daughters Lear banishes Cordelia and Kent then so Lear driven out into the storm by his own wicked daughters Q: How is justice served for Cordelia? Q: How is justice served for Cordelia?
Hospitality Being a good host is essential during the Elizabethan era…do you remember Capulet? Being a good host is essential during the Elizabethan era…do you remember Capulet? Goneril and Regan are not gracious hosts Goneril and Regan are not gracious hosts King Lear is not a good guest King Lear is not a good guest Cornwall and Regan are not good guests whilst in Gloucester’s home. Cornwall and Regan are not good guests whilst in Gloucester’s home.
Madness and Insanity The inclusion of madness and insanity in the play is Shakespeare’s comment on Elizabethan society and the clear lack of morality during this era. The inclusion of madness and insanity in the play is Shakespeare’s comment on Elizabethan society and the clear lack of morality during this era. It is especially significant that those characters who go mad are of great nobility. Thus, a comment on the ignorance of the monarchy and the lack of concern the monarchy has for lower class society. It is especially significant that those characters who go mad are of great nobility. Thus, a comment on the ignorance of the monarchy and the lack of concern the monarchy has for lower class society. Also, note that characters such as Mad Tom and the Fool are representative of the unrecognized wisdom of the lower class. Also, note that characters such as Mad Tom and the Fool are representative of the unrecognized wisdom of the lower class.
Nature The storms act as pathetic fallacy. When the tempest is in full force, it is a reflection of the inner turmoil/torment that King Lear is forced to suffer. The storms act as pathetic fallacy. When the tempest is in full force, it is a reflection of the inner turmoil/torment that King Lear is forced to suffer. The nature of the stars, under which Edmund is conceived, dictates that illegitimate children will be as evil as the Elizabethans believed astrology and witchcraft to be. The nature of the stars, under which Edmund is conceived, dictates that illegitimate children will be as evil as the Elizabethans believed astrology and witchcraft to be.
Guilt Both King Lear and Gloucester live rich lives, with no understanding of the suffering those living in poverty experience on a daily basis. It is only after all has been taken from these two men that they finally feel guilty for ignoring the plight of the poor and forgotten. Both King Lear and Gloucester live rich lives, with no understanding of the suffering those living in poverty experience on a daily basis. It is only after all has been taken from these two men that they finally feel guilty for ignoring the plight of the poor and forgotten. Once King Lear and Gloucester recognize the error of their ways, they feel such great grief and guilt for what they have done to their honorable children, that their betwix’d emotions were the ultimate cause of each of their deaths. Once King Lear and Gloucester recognize the error of their ways, they feel such great grief and guilt for what they have done to their honorable children, that their betwix’d emotions were the ultimate cause of each of their deaths.
Age & Wisdom Advanced age and wisdom do not go hand-in- hand. Advanced age and wisdom do not go hand-in- hand. Lear is probably about 80, but he is often childish in his judgments until suffering reforms him. Shakespeare's depiction of Lear may have been, in part, an attempt to discredit or satirize the tendency of people in Elizabethan England automatically to revere elders and authority figures. Lear is probably about 80, but he is often childish in his judgments until suffering reforms him. Shakespeare's depiction of Lear may have been, in part, an attempt to discredit or satirize the tendency of people in Elizabethan England automatically to revere elders and authority figures.
The truth Telling the truth can deeply wound the listener as well as the speaker. Telling the truth can deeply wound the listener as well as the speaker. Cordelia wins our admiration because she is forthright and sincere. However, her honesty offends her father, and he disowns her. Cordelia wins our admiration because she is forthright and sincere. However, her honesty offends her father, and he disowns her. The Earl of Kent, a loyal subject of Lear, suffers banishment for speaking up for Cordelia. The Earl of Kent, a loyal subject of Lear, suffers banishment for speaking up for Cordelia.
Born 1564; died 1616 Author, playwright, actor, and poet Usually credited with writing 37 plays and 154 sonnets Plays are divided into the early plays (e.g., The Taming of the Shrew),the comedies (e.g., Much Ado About Nothing), the histories (e.g., Henry V), the tragedies (e.g., King Lear), the problem plays (e.g., Measure for Measure), and the romance plays (e.g.,The Winter’s Tale)
The story of King Lear originated 400 years before Shakespeare wrote his version. Lear was a British King who reigned before the birth of Christ allowing Shakespeare to implement some polytheistic elements into the plot. British mythology refers to a “Lyr” or “Ler” who was the basis of a King Lear story by Geoffrey of Monmouth in 1137 which Shakespeare used as a source as well as Raphael Holinshed’s “Chronicle of England, Scotland and Ireland”.
Shakespeare also “borrowed” plot and subplot ideas from Edmund Spencer’s “The Faerie Queen” and John Higgins’ “A Mirror for Magistrates” among others which he then interwove into the basic King Lear tale to create his own version, ignoring much of the older Monmouth storyline. Scholars believe the play was written after “Othello” but before “Macbeth” assigning it a creation date of
Shakespeare also “borrowed” from a convenient contemporary true story of a gentleman of the court of Elizabeth I named Sir Brian Annesley whose daughters tried to have him declared insane in late 1603 so they could legally take control of his estate. His youngest daughter, named Cordell, intervened on his behalf.
Many students find Shakespeare difficult to read and to understand. If you understand his language, you can better understand his plays. This plays are written in two forms: prose and poetry.
Shakespeare uses figurative language as he speaks with metaphors, similes, and personification. Recognizing when his characters are speaking figuratively helps in understanding the play.
Most of Shakespeare’s plays are written in verse. A character who speaks in verse is a noble or a member of the Upper Class. Most of his plays focused on these characters. The verse form he used is BLANK VERSE. There is no rhyme, but each line has an internal rhythm with a regular rhythmic pattern. The pattern he liked most was iambic pentameter – 10 syllable line with accent on every other syllable. It is most regular. He sometimes found it necessary to remove a vowel so that the rhythm would work.
Protagonist dies while defeating antagonist In revenge tragedy, the protagonist is driven by desire to exact revenge, which leads to his/her demise The tragic hero is dominated by a fatal flaw in character, which leads to his/her downfall The tragic hero is held in high standing, making the downfall more tragic for the audience
1. Gloucester and his sons / Lear and his daughters 2. Suicide and the world view that demonstrates the belief that the souls of all who take their lives will be damned forever – punished for her wickedness 3. The attraction between some key characters -shows the attraction between like-minded individuals – It involves seeking in others for that which you possess in yourself
Lear has three legitimate daughters. Gloucester has one legitimate son and one illegitimate one. Evil is not confined either to gender or to being illegitimate. It can occur anywhere.
In King Lear, appearances, station, and how what others think influences our actions are examined through relationships found in family and service: father and child; nobleman and servant. Even though we believe that what we look like and what we say are reflections of who we are, Shakespeare, in King Lear, shows that appearances and words are ever deceiving and are not clear indications of the soul or the mind. Even though Goneril and Regan are of noble birth, they hardly show noble souls; and although Lear can hardly be considered to have a fair countenance, he does develop a most fair and loving soul.
One of man’s most persistent characteristics is the desire to organize the world about him, so that he can understand and explain it. He sets out to create a world picture that is rational and meaningful to him. The Elizabethans operated on TWO assumptions: All activity takes place in a world with good moral order. The universe is a Christian universe created and controlled by God. Order has its source in God. There is also evil, and its source is Satan, who revolted against the order of God, which subsequently brought about Man’s fall (from grace).
In a world dependent on words for communication, each of us comes to value the spoken and written word. We can all readily identify with a child who “says what his parents want to hear.” So, in “Lear”, you can’t always trust what is said or what is recorded.
Elizabethans, three centuries ago, struggled with the same type of questions. In King Lear, Shakespeare offers a world where the natural and unnatural are intertwined, appearances and self-perception are confused, and words—written and spoken—are deceptive.
True to Shakespearean tradition, King Lear borrows its tragic elements from several types of tragedies that were popular during the Elizabethan Renaissance. Even though King Lear is classified as a chronicle play (a type of drama which draws its English historical materials from the sixteenth-century chronicles—such as Holinshed’s), Shakespeare uses elements of tragedy sometimes called Classical tragedy, and the morality play.
To enhance this chronicle with a tragedy of character, Shakespeare incorporates a few classical elements: (1) the use of stock characters—a faithful male servant (Kent); (2) the employment of sensational themes drawn from Greek mythology, involving much use of “blood and lust;” and (3) stichomythia— dialogue that is conducted by two characters speaking in alternate lines (though strict regularity is not maintained). To balance the stock characters, Shakespeare also used characters that were consistently good or evil in their intent, echoing the pattern of a morality play. Edmund, Regan, and Goneril embody avarice, envy, anger, lust, and pride; while Edgar and Cordelia embody faithfulness and unconditional love.
As a tragedy, King Lear portrays a protagonist whose fortunes are conditioned by his hamartia. As defined by Aristotle, the protagonist of a tragedy should be a person “who is not eminently good or just, yet whose fortune is brought about by some error or frailty.” This error is not necessarily a flaw in character; hamartia can be an unwitting misstep in definite action or the failure to perform a definite action. Lear’s hamartia is the impulsive division of his powers and kingdom before his death—more particularly, disowning Cordelia because she will speak “nothing.”
Note that the following themes demonstrate Shakespeare’s use of opposition. Many of his plays present the conflict between two extremes. In so doing, Shakespeare seems to urge readers to assess their own capacity to deal with life’s extremes. Perhaps it is in this process that a Shakespearean tragedy can help a reader learn to avoid undue suffering by finding a happy middle ground on which to live.
Appearances vs Reality Much of the play deals with the characters’ failures to understand the intentions of the people around them. The evil characters in particular make use of deceit and lies to achieve their goals. Other characters assume disguises for their own protection. Moral values in the play can be reversed; that which appears to be good may be evil, while that which is evil may actually be good. In Shakespeare’s tragedies characters often learn that appearances are deceiving.
Blindness and Sight (or The Foolish vs the Wise) This theme is directly linked to the theme of “Appearances vs Reality”. Some characters are described as “blind” to the realities of the world around them due to their ignorance, poor judgement or lack of insight. Such characters are often referred to as fools for their inability to perceive reality correctly, while those with correct insight are described as wise. Great suffering ensues as these “blind” characters peel away layers of deception to discover the truth. Gloucester is literally blinded when he is deceived by false appearances; ironically, it is only when blinded that he learns to truly see.
Order vs Chaos The Medieval concept of the Great Chain of Being is at work in King Lear. This view of the universe assumes that a strict moral order (having its source in God) binds all of creation together. This order demands love, honour and obedience from all beings to those who are of superior rank in the “Great Chain”. Woman must be obedient to man. Child must honour parent. Subject must be loyal to king. Evil seeks to destroy this order by breaking bonds of loyalty and love; the result is chaos. Evil is therefore considered to be unnatural since it opposes the natural order of the universe. In King Lear notice how chaos is demonstrated through tainted family relationships, political instability, and the mental deterioration of characters.
Loyalty vs Disloyalty This theme is directly linked to the concept of Order vs Chaos”. Shakespeare shows us that many characters are willing to use deceit and treachery for their own personal gain, even when it means being disloyal to someone that should be honoured and respected. These characters are depicted as evil, spreading disloyalty like a disease to bring chaos to an entire country. In contrast, there are characters who remain loyal, thus reminding us that the forces of goodness and virtue are always at work to restore a sense of order in the play. However, Shakespeare warns that there is no honour in blind loyalty to people who are corrupt and evil (Such as Oswald’s loyalty to Goneril).
Fate vs Free Will (or Fatalism vs Opportunism) This theme is common among the Greek tragedies that Shakespeare used as models for his Renaissance tragedies. The play asks readers to consider whether the course of our lives (reward and suffering) is determined by the gods, or whether we determine our own life paths through choice and making the most of our opportunities. Do fate and freedom maintain a delicate coexistence? Perhaps we should never completely depend on fate or surrender our capacity for freedom and choice.
Patience vs Passion (or Reason vs Emotion) Shakespeare warns us that allowing one’s extreme emotions or passions (esp. wrath, sorrow, or despair) to govern our actions without first being patient and being guided by rational thought can lead to pain and suffering. Characters often call upon patience to sustain them in adversity, though many are unable to control their overwhelming emotions. The Classical school of thought known as Stoicism espoused the belief that we can most effectively cope with death and suffering by facing them with calm and dignity and mastering the passions that can overwhelm us.
The Need for Humanity One of Lear’s greatest lessons results when he loses the title of “king” and discovers who he is as a human being. The play teaches us that we must all (especially those in power) have compassion for those who live in misery. In fact, it is this compassion and respect for other human beings that can be an active force for order and goodness in the world. On the other hand, evil dehumanizes. The evil characters in the play are not “humane” and this leads to their moral degeneration and general chaos. They are often portrayed as bestial or animal-like as they seek personal advancement and live by the law of the jungle (“survival of the fittest”). Shakespeare reminds us that our capacity to act morally is what distinguishes humans from beasts.
The Nature of Evil and Justice One of the purposes of tragedy is to explain the problem of evil in our world. What are the consequences of evil deeds? Some characters in King Lear cling to the belief that there is a universal power of justice (nemesis) that will punish evil deeds and restore moral order. The evil characters in the play do receive their just rewards. But Shakespeare does not give us a simple solution, since good characters also suffer. In the end, the play seems to suggest that evil and suffering in life are unavoidable. We must therefore accept their inevitability and be ready to face them with courage (Stoicism).
Motifs Clothing and Nakedness – A recurring image which may represent the following: -loss of status or identity -Clothing in disarray or nakedness can symbolize insanity -Nakedness can represent the discovery of one’s humanity, liberated from the trappings of civilization. Bird and Animal Imagery - A recurring use of birds and animals to symbolize human conditions and behaviours. Often the animals to which humans are compared are dark and violent to denote the bestiality within human beings who give way to evil impulses.
Letters - A recurring plot device used by characters to help them carry out evil deeds. Ironically, it is also because of these letters that these evil characters get caught. Symbols The heath The hovel The castle The coronet The storm
A foil is a character who can be compared and contrasted to another character Used to clarify character traits and issues in the play King Lear and Gloucester- Old friends Both are betrayed by their children Neither has the wisdom to see through duplicious love Lear’s insanity leads him to clear perception; Gloucester’s loss of his eyes leads him to clear vision Both die after having been reunited with their faithful children
Equal in evil Neither sister has love for good beings Both sisters are attracted to Edmund Neither sister possesses compassion for love Exclusive thoughts of themselves Actively feed on the wickedness of the other
Brothers; Edgar is legitimate; Edmund is illegitimate Clear opposition of good and evil, with good prevailing in the end As Edmund tries to push his father away; Edgar tries to protect his father from a distance
Both try to speak the truth to King Lear; he is deaf to both characters Kent is part of the action until Lear’s death; the Fool exits the play as soon as his usefulness is exhausted Although they belong to different classes, they both show equal honour and loyalty
Animal Imagery in KING LEAR
[to Goneril] “Detested kite, thou liest.”(I.4.254) “O, Regan, she hath tied Sharp-tooth unkindness, like a vulture, here”(II ) “Each jealous of the other as the stung / Are of the adder. Which of them shall I take?(V ) “Those pelican daughters.” (III.4.72) The sisters are continuously associated with aggressive animals and, in the end, they are destroyed by their own animal instincts. REGAN AND GONERIL EDMUND LEAR Like monsters of the deep. Tigers, not daughters. (IV.5.41 and 51)
“We two alone will sing like birds I’the cage”(V.3.9) Lear’s vulnerability is emphasised by his comparison to passive animals, like the “edge- sparrow”. “Is man no more than this? Consider him well.Thou ow’st the worm no silk, the beast no hide, the sheep no wool, the cat no perfume. Ha? Here’s three on’s us are sophisticated; thou art the thing itself. Unaccommodated man is no more but such a poor, bare, forked animal as thou art. Off, off, you lendings: come, unbutton here.” (III ) Rhetorical question Common nouns (animals) Adjectives Listing Prefix of negation This whole passage includes negative terms, such as the repetition of the negative, the prefix and the preposition. This reinforces Lear’s vulnerability and his negative stream of consciousness, corroborated by the use of caesura and enjambment. “The edge- sparrow fed the cuckoo so long / That it’s had it head bit off by it young.” (I )
Suffering and Madness in KING LEAR
Human Suffering In Odyssey, Zeus says: ‘Ah how shameless - the way these mortals blame the gods. From us alone, they say, come all their miseries, yes, but they themselves, with their own reckless ways, compound their pains beyond their proper share.’
“You see me here, you gods, a poor old man, As full of grief as age, wretched in both: If it be you that stirs these daughters’ hearts Against their father, fool me not so much To bear it tamely; touch me with noble anger, And let not women’s weapons, water-drops, Stain my man’s cheeks. No, you unnatural hags, I will have such revenges on you both That all the world shall – I will do such things – What they are yet I know not, but they shall be The terrors of the earth! You think I’ll weep, No, I’ll not weep. Storm and Tempest. I have full cause of weeping, but this heart Shall break into a hundred thousand flaws Or e’er I’ll weep. O fool, I shall go mad.” (II ) Evocation Contrast ParenthesisContrasts with “poor old man” Hyperbole Pathetic Fallacy Hyperbole and metaphor Parenthesis and metaphor This passage is full of contradictions. On the one hand, Lear says he is a poor old man, but seems to think he has divine powers. On the other hand, he underestimates women’s power, but seems to forget that his daughters put him in this situation. Conditional Abstract noun Prefix / negative connotation adj. and noun
The Storm In part, the storm echoes Lear’s inner turmoil and mounting madness: it is a physical, turbulent natural reflection of Lear’s internal confusion. At the same time, the storm embodies the awesome power of nature, which forces the powerless king to recognize his own mortality and human frailty and to cultivate a sense of humility for the first time. The storm may also symbolize some kind of divine justice, as if nature itself is angry about the events in the play.
The Greek Take on Suffering According to the Greeks, the role of suffering in human life is clear: mathos pathei (learning [new self-awareness & knowledge] through suffering) In “King Lear”, most of the characters suffer. They react to suffering in different ways: - Some harden their hearts - Some indulge in violence - Some try to alleviate others’ suffering
King Lear & Suffering: the sadness of old age Lear makes a big mistake - he gives up his throne, but still expects to be treated as powerful. He rages against his own pain until his sanity cracks. He dies without being able to profit from his learning through suffering.
Madness Madness / insanity occupies a central place in the play and is associated with both disorder and hidden wisdom. Edgar’s feigned insanity also contains nuggets of wisdom for the king to mine. Meanwhile, Edgar’s time as a supposedly insane beggar hardens him and prepares him to defeat Edmund at the close of the play. “He childed as I fathered.” (III.6.107) The Fool, who offers Lear insight in the early sections of the play, offers his counsel in a seemingly mad babble. “Thou hadst little wit in thy bald crown when thou gav’st thy golden one away.” (I ) When Lear himself goes mad, the turmoil in his mind mirrors the chaos that has descended upon his kingdom. At the same time, however, it also provides him with important wisdom by reducing him to his bare humanity, stripped of all royal pretensions. Lear learns humility. “man is no more but such a poor, bare, forked animal” (III )
“Most savage and unnatural” Human nature Nature (the elements: earth, sea, wind and fire, which can be associated to the gods) Natural order (divine order) “Thou, Nature, art my goddess” Nature in KING LEAR
Law and order “Take away order from things, what then should remain?” Tudor England is obsessed with the idea of order and hierarchy, and terrified of anarchy and change. People believed the world was made of a ‘great chain of being’, which stretched down from the angels to humans, and from humans to the beasts and plants. In this pyramid, society is unequal but everyone and everything has their divinely ordained place. The metaphors used to describe society – ‘body politic’ or ‘tree of the commonwealth’ – emphasise the organic unity of life.
In 1577, William Harrison, a country parson begins his account of society: Gentlemen - Everyone from nobles to professionals Citizens of the cities – Free men with special privileges. Yeomen of the countryside. Poor – Day labourers, servants and vagrants (who have no voice or authority).
Malign and Misread Nature The dominance of evil characters might lead us to feel that nature is a cruel force in King Lear. Cruelty seems to come naturally to Regan, Goneril and Edmund, who seem to delight in it. For these characters, there is no natural order, they seek to create their own selfish universe. Lear transgresses against natural order when he fails to recognise Cordelia’s honesty. CHARACTERS’ TRUE NATURES ARE MISREAD. EDMUND > “Loyal and natural boy” CORDELIA > “a wretch whom nature is ashamed almost t’acknowledge”
Benign Nature Kent, Fool, Edgar and Cordelia are all good natured characters. This group believe in NATURAL ORDER, which they struggle to restore. “All blest secrets, All you unpublished virtues of the earth, Spring with my tears. Be aidant and remediate In the good man's distress. Seek, seek for him, Lest his ungoverned rage dissolve the life That wants the means to lead it.” (IV ) Lear’s unnatural dealings leads to unnatural dealings in others. CORDELIA BUT
Malign Nature The dominance of evil characters might lead us to feel that nature is a cruel force in King Lear. EDMUND suggests that nature is malevolent: “Thou, Nature, art my goddess; to thy law My services are bound. Wherefore should I Stand in the plague of custom, and permit The curiosity of nations deprive me? For that I am some twelve or fourteen moonshines Lag of a brother? Why bastard? Wherefore base? When my dimensions are as well compact, My mind as generous and my shape as true As honest madam’s issue?” (I.2.1-9) This soliloquy suggests that if nature was against Edmund’s intentions, it would have made him very different and inferior to his brother Edgar.
Malign Nature Interprets natural phenomena as a sign of bad times ahead: These late eclipses in the sun and moon Portend no good to us. Though the wisdom of Nature Can reason it thus and thus, yet nature finds itself scourged by the sequent effects. Love cools friendship Falls off, brothers divide: in cities, mutinies; in Countries, discord; in palaces, treason; and the bond Cracked twixt son and father. This villain of mine Comes under the prediction – there’s son against father. The king falls from bias of nature – there’s father Against child. We have seen the best of our time. Machinations, hollowness, treachery and all ruinous Disorders follow us disquietly to our graves.(I ) GLOUCESTER
Religion Protestants (Calvinists) Salvation is accomplished by the almighty power of the Triune God. The Father chose a people, the Son died for them, the Holy Spirit makes Christ's death effective by bringing the elect to faith and repentance, thereby causing them to willingly obey the gospel. The entire process (election, redemption, regeneration) is the work of God and is by grace alone. Thus God, not man, determines who will be the recipients of the gift of salvation. I am only doing what He wants! This is God’s will!
Religion Protestants (Arminianists). Salvation is accomplished through the combined efforts of God (who takes the initiative) and man (who must respond) - man's response being the determining factor. God has provided salvation for everyone, but His provision becomes effective only for those who, of their own free will, "choose" to cooperate with Him and accept His offer of grace. At the crucial point, man's will plays a decisive role; thus man, not God, determines who will be recipients of the gift of salvation. Where is that “whore of Babylon”? Time to hunt!
Religion Seven Deadly Sins: Gluttony Lust Sloth Envy Greed Pride Wrath Which one is Lear’s sin?
Malign Nature? “when we are sick in fortune, often the surfeits of our own behaviour, we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon and the stars, as if we were villains on Necessity, fools by heavenly compulsion, knaves, thieves and treachers by spherical predominance; drunkards, liars and adulterers by an enforced obedience of planetary influence; and all that are evil in by a divine thrusting on. An admirable evasion of whoremaster man, to lay his goatish disposition on the charge of a star.” (I ) Nature only reflects men’s mistakes! EDMUND ARMINIANISM
Malign Nature? “O most small fault, How ugly didst thou in Cordelia show, Which like an engine wrenched my frame of nature From the fixed place” (I ) This shows the seriousness of Lear’s crimes against nature and natural order. LEAR Look at Act
Hear, Nature, hear, dear goddess, hear: Suspend thy purpose if thou didst intend To make this creature fruitful. Into her womb convey sterility, Dry up in her the organs of increase, And from her derogate body never spring A babe to honour her. If she must teem, Create her child of spleen, that it may live, And be a thwart disnatured torment to her. Let it stamp wrinkles in her brow of youth, With cadent tears fret channels in her cheeks, Turn all her mother's pains and benefits To laughter and contempt, that she may feel How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is To have a thankless child. Away, away! Evocation Conditional Imperatives Adjectives Prefix of negation Metaphor Caesura Nouns Female body often associated with mystery and evil. Mother Effect on child LEAR’S PRAYER
Ha! Goneril, with a white beard? They flattered me like a dog and told me I had white hairs in my beard ere the black ones were there. To say 'ay‘ and 'no' to every thing that I said 'Ay' and 'no‘ to was no good divinity. When the rain came to wet me once, and the wind to make me chatter; when the thunder would not peace at my bidding, there I found 'em, there I smelt 'em out. Go to, they are not men o' their words: they told me I was everything; 'tis a lie, I am not ague-proof. (IV ) LEAR In his madness, Lear sees Regan and Goneril’s true nature.