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How far do you agree with the view that "Lear is a character bent on his own destruction from the outset of the play"?

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Introduction

How far do you agree with the view that "Lear is a character bent on his own destruction from the outset of the play"? The view of Lear being bent on his own destruction from the beginning of the play is an acceptable claim. The way he begins in the play, dividing up his country for his daughters, in essence, this spelt disaster. Unlike other renaissance dramatists, who used 'mad scenes' for comic use, Shakespeare seems intent on displaying madness in a more sinister portrayal. In favour of the claim, much can be said. In his thought process of dividing up his kingdom, it would appear, that nothing went through his mind to make him question what he was doing. When the audience, and indeed the characters first formally hear of the division of the country, Lear says, '...'tis our fast intent to shake all cares and business from our age' here, and later on in his speech, Lear says that the responsibility of the nation must be transferred to younger shoulders, and that those of the older generations should wait, and crawl to their death. ...read more.

Middle

To the Jacobean theatre, the issues of the family break-up with Lear and his daughters, and indeed with Edmund, Edgar and Gloucester, was a reflection on the anxieties of the period. Medieval views on gender and class were under scrutiny by the masses. The audience would have seen the play, not just as a breakdown of a character, but as the breakdown of an entire way of life, which, for the public, would have been a reflection of the age that they lived in. Lear's abandonment of his Kingly virtues, are symbolic of his madness. When he retreats to the hills and strips himself of all his clothes, in essence, Lear is stripping himself of everything monarchic, removing the clothes, which distinguish him as the king. When the storm starts, it is symbolic of Lear's growing anger, distress, and ultimately, his madness. The storm, which progressively gets worse, is appallingly destructive, almost too much for man to endure. Throughout the play, as in many of Shakespeare's plays, the Fool's role is a commentator, but in King Lear, the Fool adopts a different role. The Fool acts as Lear's conscience, among other roles, which include being the representative for Cordelia, and the vehicle for Pathos. ...read more.

Conclusion

The removal of everything that made Lear comfortable and happy meant that he had nothing to live for, except his daughters, but as the play shows, they were ruthless and cruel, leaving the King without any comforts and reasons to live. Apart from all the sorrow and depression Lear had at this stage in the play, he always had his faithful jester, the Fool. The Fool follows Lear up into the hills as a loving pet would its owner. The relationship of the Fool and Lear is a refreshing break among the anguish that is endured in this play, what with Gloucester's savage torture, fair Cordelia's banishment and the general darkness of the poem. According to the work of the Greek Philosopher Aristotle, horror and pity are the two emotions that the audience should feel when watching a tragedy. These two emotions are certainly expressed in King Lear, mainly from the Madness of Lear. It is an interesting and difficult concept, to say that Lear's character is bent on his own destruction from the outset of the play, but for one to generate opinion, one must be able to distinguish between Lear's 'Sane' and 'Mad' portrayal. Is he just mad anyway, or do the actions throughout the play remove his mind and replace it with the mind of a wildcat. ...read more.

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