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King Lear. Historical background Lear is a mythical king, appears in several works. Lear is a mythical king, appears in several works. Written at height.

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Presentation on theme: "King Lear. Historical background Lear is a mythical king, appears in several works. Lear is a mythical king, appears in several works. Written at height."— Presentation transcript:

1 King Lear

2 Historical background Lear is a mythical king, appears in several works. Lear is a mythical king, appears in several works. Written at height of Shakespeare’s tragic period ( ) Written at height of Shakespeare’s tragic period ( ) Lear first played in spring Lear first played in spring Elizabeth had died March 1603; court degeneracy followed. National grief. Elizabeth had died March 1603; court degeneracy followed. National grief.

3 Historical background Elizabethans were going through a confusing and difficult time. Elizabethans were going through a confusing and difficult time. 1606—Plague—30,000 died. 1606—Plague—30,000 died. Feeling that the universe was corrupt and at the point of dissolution. Feeling that the universe was corrupt and at the point of dissolution. Universal gloom. Fear of vast and vague calamity. Universal gloom. Fear of vast and vague calamity.

4 Lear Difficult, mature plot. Not an easy play. Difficult, mature plot. Not an easy play. Playing Lear requires power and maturity from actor. Playing Lear requires power and maturity from actor. Elaborate plot/subplot. Elaborate plot/subplot. Timeless and universal themes. Timeless and universal themes.

5 Plot synopsis Lear is a pre-Christian King in southwest England. He decides to retire and to divide his kingdom among his three daughters. He asks if they love him. Goneril and Regan claim extravagently that they do; Cordelia answers honestly. Lear disinherits Cordelia. Lear is a pre-Christian King in southwest England. He decides to retire and to divide his kingdom among his three daughters. He asks if they love him. Goneril and Regan claim extravagently that they do; Cordelia answers honestly. Lear disinherits Cordelia.

6 Double plot (not subplot) Lear and Gloucester. Lear has three daughters; Gloucester has two sons. Lear and Gloucester. Lear has three daughters; Gloucester has two sons. Stories parallel and complement each other.Makes tragedy universal. Stories parallel and complement each other.Makes tragedy universal. Lear is a powerful man who imposes his will on the world; Gloucester too easily accepts the will of the world. Lear is a powerful man who imposes his will on the world; Gloucester too easily accepts the will of the world. Gloucester’s flaw is passivity; Lear is violently active on wrong principles Gloucester’s flaw is passivity; Lear is violently active on wrong principles

7 Themes—Parental authority How children and parents treat each other. How children and parents treat each other. Relationship of children/fathers. Relationship of children/fathers. How should children show love/loyalty to their parents? Should parents reward love/loyalty? How should children show love/loyalty to their parents? Should parents reward love/loyalty? Clash of ages/generational conflicts. Clash of ages/generational conflicts.

8 Theme—Nature as universal order Elizabethan belief—order of nature reflects human law. Nature was ordered for good of Man. Elizabethan belief—order of nature reflects human law. Nature was ordered for good of Man. Is nature a norm for conduct? Is nature a norm for conduct? Erosion of order leads to an amoral collection of forces. Erosion of order leads to an amoral collection of forces. Storms symbolic of chaos. Storms symbolic of chaos.

9 Nature and order Natural order=family Natural order=family Family and birthright—legitimate vs. illegitimate Family and birthright—legitimate vs. illegitimate Need to look beyond surface to understand love, affection, and loyalty. Need to look beyond surface to understand love, affection, and loyalty.

10 Great Chain of Being A belief that every being occupies a predetermined place in hierarchy of universe. A belief that every being occupies a predetermined place in hierarchy of universe. Strong belief in power and influence of starts, fate and the gods. Strong belief in power and influence of starts, fate and the gods. Great chain of being—divinely preordained—invited human passivity, despondence, and lack of initiative Great chain of being—divinely preordained—invited human passivity, despondence, and lack of initiative

11 Great Chain of Being Renaissance is a time of moving away from this belief. Renaissance is a time of moving away from this belief. Renaissance shifts away from human passivity and influence of gods/fate and toward an emphasis on human self- determination, independence, and responsibility Renaissance shifts away from human passivity and influence of gods/fate and toward an emphasis on human self- determination, independence, and responsibility

12 Theme--Madness Man’s ability to reason an important part of his personality. Man’s ability to reason an important part of his personality. Real madness in Lear? When Lear is mad, he reasons better. Real madness in Lear? When Lear is mad, he reasons better. Feigned madness in others Feigned madness in others Fool=wisest character. Fool=wisest character.

13 Theme—Pride/Self-will Lear’s over-confidence causes him to make several mistakes: Lear’s over-confidence causes him to make several mistakes: 1. believes he can retain privileges of kingship w/o responsibilities. 1. believes he can retain privileges of kingship w/o responsibilities. 2. insists love can be measured by words and land. 2. insists love can be measured by words and land. 3. fails to understand language/words of his daughters. 3. fails to understand language/words of his daughters.

14 Role of women Marriages were arranged. Marriages were arranged. Women occupied lower social status than men. Women occupied lower social status than men. What picture of women is Shakespeare painting in this play? What picture of women is Shakespeare painting in this play?

15 Cordelia Can be seen as protagonist; similar to Antigone. Can be seen as protagonist; similar to Antigone. Must make difficult choice; penalty for either option--Tell her father what he wants to hear or stand on her dignity. Must make difficult choice; penalty for either option--Tell her father what he wants to hear or stand on her dignity. Cordelia tries to compromise. Cordelia tries to compromise.

16 Importance of paradox Gloucester is physically blinded at the moment he receives spiritual insight. Gloucester is physically blinded at the moment he receives spiritual insight. Lear is more lucid when he is mad. Lear is more lucid when he is mad. Fool is wisest character. Fool is wisest character. Watch for other examples. Watch for other examples.

17 Imagery Animal/Nature imagery most prevalent in the play. 57 different animals named in the play. Animal/Nature imagery most prevalent in the play. 57 different animals named in the play. Clothing/nakedness Clothing/nakedness Fortune/fate Fortune/fate Eyesight/blindness—Sight/Insight vs. Blindness and Ignorance Eyesight/blindness—Sight/Insight vs. Blindness and Ignorance

18 Aristotle’s definition of tragedy Reversal is essential in Aristotle’s view of tragedy. State of affairs change rapidly; climax; reversal of discovery; from ignorance to understanding. Reversal is essential in Aristotle’s view of tragedy. State of affairs change rapidly; climax; reversal of discovery; from ignorance to understanding. Moment of discovery is highly dramatic moment. Recognition scenes. Moment of discovery is highly dramatic moment. Recognition scenes. In Lear the process of self-discovery is the center of the tragedy. It is the play. In Lear the process of self-discovery is the center of the tragedy. It is the play. Lear as tragic hero. What is his flaw? Lear as tragic hero. What is his flaw?

19 Macrocosm/Microcosm By understanding the small world of Lear, we can better understand the entire world. By understanding the small world of Lear, we can better understand the entire world. Human nature. Human nature.


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