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AS and A Level: King Lear

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Writing about tragedy in 'King Lear'

  1. 1 While reference to Aristotle’s ‘guidelines’ on tragedy is valid, remember that Shakespeare had not actually read the ‘Poetics’ in which Aristotle’s views are expressed. These were not published in England until a later date.
  2. 2 Consider why there are comic scenes, such as those with the Fool, in tragedies.
  3. 3 Does Lear have one ‘tragic flaw’ or several?
  4. 4 Is Lear’s the only tragic outcome in the play? Consider others, such as Gloucester, Cordelia, Kent.
  5. 5 Spell ‘tragedy’ and ‘tragic’ correctly.

Five recurring patterns, references or motifs in 'King Lear' that you need to consider when writing your essay

  1. 1 Blindness.
  2. 2 Madness.
  3. 3 Parent/child relationships.
  4. 4 Honesty/dishonesty.
  5. 5 Clothing/nakedness.

Key themes of 'King Lear'

  1. 1 Justice.
  2. 2 Authority and power.
  3. 3 Self knowledge.
  4. 4 Compassion.
  5. 5 Apperance versus reality.

  • Marked by Teachers essays 6
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  1. Marked by a teacher

    How effectively does Shakespeare present Lear's loss of power in the play?

    4 star(s)

    Also in the first scene of the play, the way that other characters address Lear shows his authority. They perform his wishes and address him with formal titles. When Lear issues his command to Gloucester his immediate response is "I shall, my Lord". This shows the respect the characters have to show towards the King, emphasising his power. The characters also use flattery when addressing Lear, which shows his power as they are trying to stay in his favour by appealing to his ego. When Kent tries to make Lear realise his error in dismissing Cordelia, he addresses him as "Royal Lear, whom I have ever honoured as my king, loved as my father", which combines flattery with respect to try and win Lear over to Kent's way of thinking.

    • Word count: 2822
  2. Marked by a teacher

    Consider the role of the Fool in King Lear. How important is he to the play as a whole?

    4 star(s)

    His role had established characteristics and responsibilities. Among them the Fool had license to roam the stage and interact with the audience often joking and talking directly to them. He had great popularity with the audience of the time, with his role a bridge between the action on stage and the audience's own experience. Today it may be thought of as 'low comedy', but in its day it was welcomed. Shakespeare exploited the aspect of the Fool to make him a major character in the play as well as a commentator on the action, much the way the chorus functioned in a Greek tragedy.

    • Word count: 2163
  3. Marked by a teacher

    The influence Act 1 has on the rest of the play in King Lear

    3 star(s)

    By reducing what Lear has power over, he becomes weaker and weaker, and therefore easier for Goneril and Regan to take control. Act 1 is mainly set around the 'love-test' he devised for his three daughters, in order to decide who should have his kingdom. Two of his three daughters are desperate to 'enjoy half his revenue forever', and therefore introduces the main plot, and the beginning to Lear's large downfall, despite the fact that Regan and Goneril most definitely wrong; which creates and even stronger power of evil and shows how determined they are to rid of their father,

    • Word count: 2350
  4. Marked by a teacher

    King Lear: Act I Scene IV

    3 star(s)

    Lear realises himself that he has been 'neglect of lately' which is bizarre to an audience as he is, or was the King. Despite his current status, he still was noble: does nobility and respect dissolve with retirement? Indeed, Lear probably didn't retire but rather quit his responsibilities and leadership but still, an audience may begin to sympathise with Lear as he is receiving nothing from his daughters, nothing as a father, and nothing as a nobleman. The first amazing sign of disrespect against Lear is that of Goneril's steward Oswald.

    • Word count: 1190
  5. Marked by a teacher

    King Lear. The seeds of tragedy are sewn in Act 1 scene 1. To what extent are the events inevitable with reference to the opening?

    3 star(s)

    There are many events in the opening which result in a series of tragic occurrences later on in the play. When Lear gives away his authority to Goneril and Regan, he leads himself to cruel treatment. As a result, his people are also plunged into corruption and disorder. The authority that Lear represents falls apart in the very opening act making tragic events inevitable. However, it could be argued that by dividing the kingdom before his death, Lear is preventing chaos which would occur after his death.

    • Word count: 1602
  6. Marked by a teacher

    Villains in King Lear

    to act as rashly with her and Regan as he did with Kent and Cordelia. When Regan suggests that they think on it further, Goneril responds, "We must do something i' th' heat of times" (1.1.355). When Lear comes to stay with Goneril, it does not take long for her to act against her father. Goneril insults her father saying "As you are old and reverend, should be wise. Here do you keep a hundred knights and squires, men so disordered, so debauched and bold, that this our court, infected with their manners, shows like a riotous inn" (1.4.247-251).

    • Word count: 1360
  7. King Lear as a Tragic Hero

    Lear, as K. S. Mirsha describes him, is a towering figure, who is every inch a king. He has the majesty of stature and mien. Even when he loses his royal dignity there remains his soul in bare greatness. Lear is a tragic hero whose sufferings are cruel and pitiful. He inspires admiration and affection. His nature is great as he s frank, generous and heroically patient. His rashness in dividing the kingdom troubles us. Learis generous and unsuspiciuos by nature... His old age and infirmity deepen our pity for him.(3) It was very important for us to see the beginnig of the play in order to experience Lear as a happy man, surrounded by good fortune.

    • Word count: 1066
  8. King Lear. Shakespeare does not allow any of his characters to have a peaceful end and all are affected by the betrayal and loyalty shown by each of his characters.

    From this statement alone, I could tell that Lear thought more with his ego than he did with his brain. I believe that if Lear were smarter, he would have realized that any of his daughters that complimented him with the most grandeur would not have the best intentions. By giving Lear this vain and prideful character trait, Shakespeare gives the readers a clue to what will eventually lead Lear to his downfall.

    • Word count: 589
  9. Many definitions of tragedy claim that at the end of the play positives have emerged. Is it possible to see anything positive in the ending of King Lear?

    Additionally there is one moment of anagnorisis from Lear that helps show hope He finally begins to realise what he has done as a parent and shows anagnorisis and begins to act more paternally in Act 3 Scene 2 when he says to the Fool "Come on my boy"(III.ii.67). This shows that even the most ignorant, blind and self involved of men will finally see the error of their ways. Another Character who shows hope is Edgar. Throughout the play he has been wronged by his brother Edmund and his father, Gloucester, but despite this he guides his blind father and helps him regain faith in humanity in Act 4 Scene 6 .

    • Word count: 1593
  10. Free essay

    King Lear. Within the script Shakespeare presents characters of great greed and ambition in the effort to gain power. Their struggle towards power is followed,

    Within the script Shakespeare presents characters of great greed and ambition in the effort to gain power. Their struggle towards power is followed, Edmund seeking Gloucester's title and Gonerill and Regan in the hunt for Lear's land and power. Initially, the audience is presented with the 'love test' in which Lear's daughters have to flatter their father into dividing the Kingdom. Consequently, Shakespeare foreshadows the repercussions of Lear's actions through metaphor 'We have seen the best of our time...all ruinous disorders follow us disquietly to our graves...we make guilty of our disasters... by and influenced obedience of planetary influence'.

    • Word count: 1055
  11. King Lear Act II

    Further, Lear is presented as a poor father. The fool also highlights the theme of role reversal when he announces to Lear 'Fathers that wear rags'. Role reversal is envisioned and thrown directly at Lear - how is it that Lear has nothing while his children have complete power and wealth? By 'rags', does Shakespeare suggest Lear's lack of wealth or Lear's lack of love? Lear has quickly been deprived of both as a consequence of his decisions and he is now left a father with 'rags' emphasising he has absolutely been mistreated, and actually, left with absolutely nothing but rags.

    • Word count: 1140
  12. To What Extent Can King Lear Be Described as the Tragic Hero of Shakespeares King Lear?

    Even today's modern tragedies carry features that Aristotle outlined all those century's before. Again, modern playwrights and authors will bend the rules to suit the audiences of their time. Shakespeare wrote King Lear between the end of 1605 and 1606. Although it is widely recognised that he got the basic idea of the play from the late sixteenth-century play: The True Chronicle History of King Lear, some research into the current events around the time he would have been writing reveal what may have been further sources of inspiration. Two possible events that Shakespeare and his audience would have been aware of are the cases of Sir Brian Annesley and William Allen.

    • Word count: 2120
  13. King Lear. In this extract, Shakespeare tries to illustrate the extent of Lears psychological suffering that he has been subjected to; first by his ungrateful daughters and now by the death of his beloved Cordelia.

    Shakespeare constantly uses negation throughout the play but in this context it has a deeper substance and thematically reinforces 'nothing'. 'She's gone forever' gives it a climactic finality to Lear's story and by using hindsight we are able to realise that Cordelia's death also means the end for Lear. The use of caesurae "I know when one is dead and when one lives' creates a balance form Lear's part, a moment of rationality and for the audience this is the shocking confirmation of her absolute death.

    • Word count: 629
  14. King Lear. The theme of disorder is one of the main and important issues in the play.

    His irrational act leads to Goneril, Regan and Edmund exercising their cruel powers to the full. It leads Goneril and Regan into humiliating Lear by putting Kent (his servant) on the stock 'who stocked my servant?' and later on by reducing Lear's might 'what need one?' Shakespeare tries to thematically reinforce Lear's actions at the start of the play, the common belief was that kingship was bestowed by God and Lear's act of transgression has allowed his daughters to behave in the most inhumane and cruel fashion, which ultimately has caused an internal tempest in the kingdom.

    • Word count: 707
  15. If Justice is relative, depending on personal point of view, how can it be Justice?

    That we our largest bounty may extend". This appears as if Lear would decide the proportions of land that each of his daughters would receive - based on their speeches. However, when Cordelia refuses to take part, Lear laments: "I loved her the most and thought to set my rest" implying he already had favoured her and by allowing such contest he would only arouse rivalry between the sisters. This could only mean the main reason for Lear's decision to hold a contest, knowing beforehand Cordelia is whom he wishes to inherit the most, is due to his desire to be flattered.

    • Word count: 1702
  16. King Lear. What elements of a climactic structure are evident in this play? Name three major parts of this structure and where they occur in the play.

    With all the minor characters and multiple main characters, it makes the relationships seem more believable in order for no character may become overly dominant. The consistent exchange between the plot and subplot allows a progression in energy and build up to a conclusion that is simpler to understand wrapping up the storylines along with keeping the reader entertained. 3. Name three ways in which the subplot complements the subplot, echoing, but often with some difference, its ideas and structures.

    • Word count: 925
  17. King Lear - Dramatic Impact

    This leaves the audience questioning whether Lear has really developed and changed at all during the duration of the play. This can be explored further with Lear's repeated use of the first person singular 'I', which shows yet again that it is the way in which problems affect him rather than all the characters as a whole. It is particularly poignant when Lear first says 'you murderers' and later 'who are you?' to Kent. The lack of recognition of Kent, the man who has served him so loyally would stir up emotion in the audience.

    • Word count: 867
  18. Analysis of chapter 1

    Of course, they did not love him with their all, but in Lear's old state; they knew he would fall for their claims of love toward him. The two oldest sisters have very harsh sounding names, lacking in femininity or beauty. Cordelia's name is much more feminine. This is the first constructed quality which sets her apart from her sisters. Also attention should be given to the inflated verse Goneril and Regan use when addressing their father as opposed to the much harsher prose they use upon his exit in scene 1.

    • Word count: 1525
  19. King lear role of the fool

    The Fool also warns Lear about Goneril and Regan stating that Lear is now a lap dog to Goneril and Regan, "Truths a dog must to kennel; he must be whipped out when the Lady Brach may stand by the fire and stink". The Fool disappears in act three, when Lear goes mad. This shows that the Fool is Lear's view of reasoning because when a person goes insane they cannot think correctly and therefore after act three there is no need for Lear to have a Fool as he is mad.

    • Word count: 909
  20. King Lear, Femininity and Female Disorder

    The disorder of nature, rule, relationships, health and religion equate to female sway and discordance of the spheres. The harmony of the spheres is broken. King Lear the patriarchal head of England has the position of king, ruler - a divinely ordained responsibility. The most important significance of Lear's playlet is the way in which it ensures continued disorder through the precedent it establishes," (Some Facets of King Lear pg. 29) and that disorder remains in force through female rule and representation. When he decides to divest himself of authority, disharmony, discord and moral depravity invade and pervade the land.

    • Word count: 2329
  21. Close Analysis of Act 3 Scene 4 of King Lear

    This contrasts with the strong and powerful king who is depicted in Act 1 and 2. This shows a lack of order because the audience and society expects a king to be strong and powerful so they know he's in control. Shakespeare's technique of characterising the tragic hero in King Lear is typical of his tragedies. At the start of Scene 1, Gloucester and Kent are talking about Lear: "I thought the king had more affected the Duke of/Albany than Cornwall." by introducing the tragic hero with the opinion of other characters the audience forms an impression of the character before they come on stage.

    • Word count: 1654
  22. I am a man more sinned against than sinning How accurate do you consider Lears assessment of himself to be in relation to act 1.

    As king of the country and ruler of all men, he should have been wiser than to believe in the empty glowing praise of Goneril and Regan. Yet Lear is a worshipper of flattery, he thinks love comes more in words than in actions, thus he enjoys listening to those "low sounds [which] reverb no hollowness". As his pride swells up to the false proclamations, Lear fails to see the true colours of his elder daughters and has mistrusted them to be dutiful children who "love [him] more than word can wield the matter".

    • Word count: 848
  23. Critical Appreciation of Act one Scene one in King Lear

    The sub-plot therefore revolves around Edmund's determination to obtain fortune and position in the eyes of society. Their conversation also reveals the main plot which involves Lear's intention of dividing his kingdom among his daughters. Lear's action will be a shock to Elizabethan society. A typical Shakespearean audience believed in the divine order or the natural order of things, in which the king was God's representative on earth. Therefore any act against the king was an act against God. Lear, therefore, introduced disorder into his kingdom when he went against the divine order.

    • Word count: 1038
  24. Just how admirable is Edmund?

    "This is the excellent foppery of the world." He is also incredibly good looking, a facet of his which he is aware of and hence plays upon. He says "my dimensions are as well compact" and "my shape as true / As honest madam's issue." This opinion is obviously shared by Regan and Goneril, who both hound after Edmund incessantly, notwithstanding the fact that they are at one point both married in the lay to different people. Regan says "General, / Take thou my soldiers, prisoners, patrimony; / Dispose of them, of me, the walls is thine.

    • Word count: 2042
  25. Social injustices in King Lear

    The injustices in Lear's society epitomized the frustration and resentment and drove the characters to take action into their own hands, leading the play to its tragic ending. Edmond had sought to overcome the 'social injustices' in Lear's society as his obsession with being a bastard became the primary defence of his actions. His obsession is evident when in his soliloquy he says "why they brand us/ with 'base' with 'baseness'? 'bastardy'? 'base, base'?". Edmond repeats both 'base' and 'bastardy' fourteen times, it is evident to the audience that he is obsessed with being a bastard and this ultimately defines

    • Word count: 2422

Conclusion analysis

Good conclusions usually refer back to the question or title and address it directly - for example by using key words from the title.
How well do you think these conclusions address the title or question? Answering these questions should help you find out.

  1. Do they use key words from the title or question?
  2. Do they answer the question directly?
  3. Can you work out the question or title just by reading the conclusion?
  • To What Extent Can King Lear Be Described as the Tragic Hero of Shakespeares King Lear?

    "Did Shakespeare set out with Aristotle's blue print in mind when he created Lear? We will never know but in my opinion he does seem to fit the main characteristics Aristotle outlined. The only argument against this I can see is the fact the audience does not witness Lear's great, admirable qualities before we are introduced to his 'tragic flaw'. If we look at our first introduction to Macbeth, one of Shakespeare's other 'tragic hero's' for example; The audience is told of how he fought bravely for his country and we see him promoted to Thane of Cawdor before we learn about his 'tragic flaw'. Despite this however I believe King Lear is one of the all time great tragedies and Lear himself most definitely deserves the title 'tragic hero'."

  • King Lear. The seeds of tragedy are sewn in Act 1 scene 1. To what extent are the events inevitable with reference to the opening?

    "In conclusion to my essay it is important for the seeds of tragedy to be sewn in act 1 scene 1, as this provides the audience with a sense of the inevitability of tragic events keeping them engaged with the play. Further more, by foreshadowing tragic events in the opening, the play takes into account the perception of a good tragedy made by Aristotle. However, it could be argued that the seeds of tragedy in the opening are not necessary as this makes a tragic ending more unexpected and therefore the modern day reader may find this more exiting."

  • To what extent is King Lears flaw the infirmity of his age?

    "I have thus attempted to explore several pernicious faults integral to Lear’s character, for Shakespeare had a phenomenal understanding of human psychology, and to pinpoint one sole personality trait or action of Lear’s to his downfall is to be guilty of a reductionist treatment of a writer of such stellar genius as Shakespeare. (On a similar note, King Lear can certainly be called a universal allegory; however, the word allegory does justice to neither the depth nor the dynamicity in the experience it presents. One must be careful with the treatment of language, as that would only be fair considering Shakespeare’s own careful, passionate and inventive use of language that characterizes all his indisputably great works). To conclude, I have above shown the elements which ascribe Lear’s development as a character and I have considered and explored a range of different hubristic facets which together amount to and portend King Lear’s ultimate calamity."

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