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

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Introduction

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.

Middle

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.

Conclusion

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.

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