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In King Lear Shakespeare creates a morally chaotic world. How far and in what ways do you agree with this statement? (with teacher's edits)

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Introduction

Transfer-Encoding: chunked ?In King Lear Shakespeare creates a morally chaotic world.? How far and in what ways do you agree with this statement? Shakespeare presents a variety of ways in which moral chaos is brought about, including the disruption of the natural order and the characters possession of typically corrupted morals, even going as far as questioning the morals of his own society. However, having different principles in a modern audience, we tend to have different interpretations of ?moral chaos? to that of a contemporary audience. In king Lear, Shakespeare arguably does create a ?morally chaotic world?, particularly trough the notion of the ?natural order? being disrupted. The betrayal of the children against their fathers illustrates a significant disruption of nature, as it was considered natural and necessary for children to have unfaltering obedience for their parents, particularly their fathers. When Cordelia publicly refuses to obey her father?s wishes, she goes against the true qualities of a 17th century daughter in the natural order and it is arguably this initial rebellion that causes the suffering and tragedy throughout the rest of the play. According to feminist critics, Cordelia?s refusal to flatter Lear can be interpreted as an opposition to Lear?s authority and thus a direct challenge to the natural patriarchal order of the seventeenth century, the short emphatic sentence ?Nothing? stressing this assertiveness. ...read more.

Middle

From a New Historicist stance, critics such as Tennenhouse argue that Shakespeare illustrates what happens when there is a ?catastrophic redistribution of power?, therefore promoting the oppressive structures of the patriarchal hierarchy. However, other critics suggest that the tragedies occur because of society?s already ?faulty ideological structure?, particularly emphasised in the David Farr production through the skewed girders, broken windows, sizzling strip-lighting and the eventual collapse of the flimsy kingdom walls. Moreover, Shakespeare appears to be presenting a morally chaotic world through the way in which the characters can be seen as possessing seen corrupted morals, motivated purely by materialism as opposed to moralistic values. We see this in the elegant and superficial speeches of Gonerill and Regan who claim to love Lear ?Dearer than eyesight?, the hyperbole in these statements highlighting their manipulative nature and greed for worldly goods. Their actions throughout the rest of the play prove the fabrication of these initial promises. Johnson comments that King Lear is a play in which the ?Wicked prosper and virtuous miscarry?. I find this view accurate as the audience can witness how the Machiavellian characters such as Gonerill and Regan are rewarded for their materialism, and given total rights over the kingdom, whereas the virtuous characters such as Cordelia and Kent are punished for their honesty and moralistic values, consequently demonstrating a world of chaotic morals. ...read more.

Conclusion

Foakes comments "The optimistic thrust of Edgar's moralizing hints at the possibility of a happy ending.?? The play concludes with the moralistic character Edgar reigning over England, and although good characters such as Cordelia die, (which wasn?t received well by Shakespeare?s original audience), evil is ultimately eradicated whilst good triumphs. By the end of the play, Evil can even be seen to be eradicated by evil itself. Gonerill poisons Regan, and mentions in an aside after Regan feels the effects ?If not I?ll ne?er trust medicine?, the secretive nature of this aside presenting her murderous and calculating nature. Shortly after, she commits suicide, which would have been seen as a great act of sin by a Jacobean audience, but ultimately evil defeats itself, evoking a rebalancing of morals and a move back towards the natural order. The play clearly descends from the embodied values of medieval morality plays, which was a popular form of drama in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. These plays present a direct conflict between good and evil, and ultimately the evil and chaos must be destroyed, and a moral lesson is learned. Overall, there are many aspects of King Lear that evoke a seeming moral chaos, however by the end of the play, as in all morality plays, the chaos is removed and moral order is restored, resulting in catharsis for the audience. ...read more.

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