• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

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

Extracts from this document...


To what extent is King Lear’s flaw “the infirmity of his age”? In an essay distinguished by his characteristic insight and sagaciousness, D.H. Lawrence makes the following observation: “While a man remains a man, before he falls and becomes a social individual, he innocently feels himself altogether within the great continuum of the universe. Lear [felt] it, […] [he] was essentially happy, even in his greatest misery.” He adds, “Humanly, mankind is helpless and unconscious, unaware even of the thing most precious to any human being, that core of manhood or womanhood, naïve, innocent at-one-ness with the living universe-continuum, which alone makes a man individual and, as an individual, essentially happy, even if he be driven mad like Lear.” What is it then, one should ask, that drives King Lear, this “essentially happy” man, to a dismally tragic downfall? Shakespeare’s play adheres to Aristotle’s theory of tragedy, and hence Lear’s character, the “tragic hero”, must have a tragic flaw which ultimately must cause his tragic fall. ...read more.


In other words, he proves himself naïve in that he doesn’t realize that his authority will leave him together with his responsibility. Samuel Coleridge sees in lines 164-165 evidence of Lear’s “moral incapability of resigning the sovereign power in the very moment of disposing of it”. “This coronet part between you” is a line which reveals a cardinal theme of the play, namely the division of the kingdom, and additionally it features the motif of the coronet. King James I of England, who reigned when King Lear first performed, advises against the division of the kingdom in his treatise of government “Basilikon Doron”. It would ensue that Shakespeare, who was trying to be an artist whilst simultaneously satisfying the demands of the Elizabethan theatre, was aiming to flatter the king by displaying Lear who causes his own downfall by creating a schism in his kingdom. King Lear’s decisions are largely preposterous. ...read more.


Additionally, Lear?s pre-Christian pagan beliefs (?the operation of the orbs/From whom we do exist and cease to be?) make a Christian reading possible: a Jacobean audience might interpret his beliefs as having determined his downfall. 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. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level King Lear section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level King Lear essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

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

    4 star(s)

    This line shows how Kent is fearful of Lear's power and is being tentative in putting his point across as Lear could very easily punish Kent as he is the omnipotent King. Gonerill's and Regan's speeches demonstrate the need to flatter the powerful King clearly in the opening of the play.

  2. Marked by a teacher

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

    3 star(s)

    For example, King Lear tells Cordelia; 'Nothing will come of nothing: speak again' when he does not hear what he was expecting and desiring to hear. It is right in front of his eyes, and on his tongue, yet still recognised by everyone except himself.

  1. King Lear, Femininity and Female Disorder

    Those ill-dispositions only reveal in a plainer light that the female figure runs contrary to the organization and the stability of society. The madness of King Lear goes in sync with the declining sanity of the power-drunk women and their infirm minds while their father's mental health retrogresses to a point where he is as a raving and petulant child.

  2. To What Extent Can King Lear Be Described as the Tragic Hero of Shakespeares ...

    Maybe Shakespeare's original audience may have been more sympathetic toward King Lear, due to the social relevance of some of the themes covered in the play? SparkNotes Editors, (2002) suggest that ' Elizabethan England was an extremely hierarchical society, demanding that absolute deference be paid and respect be shown not

  1. Explore the presentation of Edmund in 'King Lear'

    Again the love and trust between a father and a dutiful child are soured. In Act III Scene iii, Gloucester reveals to Edmund his distress at the cruelty of Goneril, Regan and Cornwall. He is disturbed at their command that he, the master of the house, should not comfort the King.

  2. How does Shakespeare present Edmund in King Lear?

    Initially we see a dialogue between Edmund and Gloucester. There are only ever two people in this scene, and it further progresses so only Edmund and Edgar are talking.

  1. Compare and contrast madness: its possible causes; its manifestations; its consequences; and its resolution, ...

    to fathom the lowest depths" according to Jan Kott; they push humanity to its limits, and by extension an entire empire. This environment, following Lear's abdication, is as fickle as the incumbent king's mindset; he alludes to "fifty followers [gone] at a clap!", and others reference minor riots ("have you heard of no likely wars?")

  2. The Nature of Redemption and the Limits of Pessimism in King Lear

    In addition, the actions of most characters are motivated by unmitigated spite and malice, whether it is Edmund?s betrayal of his brother, Cornwall?s treatment of Kent, or the patricidal scheming of Goneril and Regan. Moreover, beyond the characters themselves, the England of King Lear is a miserable country full of ?poor naked wretches,? wracked by poverty and warfare (3.4.28).

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work