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'A man more sinned against than sinning'. Is this your reading of Shakespeare's King Lear?

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Introduction

'A man more sinned against than sinning'. Is this your reading of Shakespeare's King Lear? Shakespeare is not primarily concerned with motives; he is more interested in the effects of characters' decisions and natures. In Kind Lear, he focuses on the tragic consequences of two fathers' actions, and how events shape their characters. During the course of the play, the others characters also change and grow; some are good and become better, others are bad and become more depraved. Lear and Gloucester are exceptions. Neither is good or bad in a straightforward way. Lear's characterisation is particularly complex. He is not a tragic hero with a simple flaw that causes his downfall. Not is his growth a simple movement from ignorance to knowledge. When he emerges from his madness, Lear may have learned a great deal, but doubts remain as to the depth of his understanding. He is infuriating in Act 1 Scene 1, becoming increasingly sympathetic as he suffers himself. As suggested above, Lear is a complex tragic hero, who excites a variety or responses. Watching his disastrous acts of Act 1 Scene 1, it is not hard to feel that Lear deserves punishment for his folly. ...read more.

Middle

He learns to distinguish between appearances and reality and considers the sufferings of those close to him. Lear also becomes much more self-critical. He emerges from his torment a more humble, loving and attractive character. This way of thinking certainly gives the impression that Lear is indeed 'a man more sinned against than sinning'. However, it can also be thought that Lear remains self-obsessed and vengeful. His philosophical enquiries on the heath are punctuated by thoughts of punishing Goneril and Regan. Again and again he returns to the crimes committed against him. He struggles to accept responsibility for his elder daughters' cruel natures and never fully acknowledges the folly of his actions in Act 1 Scene 1. However, towards the end of the play, it becomes difficult to remain too critical of Lear. His reconciliation with Cordelia shows the best of Lear. Ashamed of his former unkindness, he humbles himself before his youngest daughter, acknowledging her superiority. We can forgive him now focusing on the way he has been abused. At the end of the play Lear seems to move beyond himself. He has certainly accepted his powerless, diminished status and now sees himself primarily as Cordelia's father. ...read more.

Conclusion

In this readers opinion, Lear's only sin is his original one; namely that where he banishes Cordelia after her brutal honesty. Lear is then on a slippery slope of cause and effect. He was the cause, and everything else that happens in the play is the effect. Nobody could have foreseen the immanent downfall which his original sin leads to. Once this point of view has been adopted, it is impossible to see Lear as the true perpetrator in this spiral of destruction. It is difficult to imagine disharmony in the kingdom if for example, Cordelia had indeed 'heaved her heart into her mouth'. So, to conclude, although Lear was the initial cause of sin in the play, the actions of others; such as Goneril and Regan to name but two. The wheel has been given a push in Act 1 Scene 1, and the initial force was too great. It carried on turning, and Lear was at the bottom when is came crashing round. Lear loses everything; his kingdom, his Fool, his three daughters and his own life. ' Come not between the dragon and his wrath.' Unfortunately, the wrath was too strong for even the dragon himself. ' Adam Draper Lear - Sinned or Sinning? Mr Lempriere 31st October English 6AM2 ...read more.

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