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'I am a man more sinned against than sinning' III.2.59-60 To what extent do you agree with Lear's statement above? Discuss Lear's role in the play and explore his journey from tyrant to humility and death.

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Introduction

Lyndsay Scott 'I am a man more sinned against than sinning' III.2.59-60 To what extent do you agree with Lear's statement above? Discuss Lear's role in the play and explore his journey from tyrant to humility and death. Interpreting Lear's own analysis of his situation, in that he is a 'man more sinned against than sinning' (Act 3, scene 2) is problematic. Up until this point, and throughout the play, the characterization of Lear has been particularly complex. He is, in fact a tragic hero who excites a variety of responses from an audience. Lear has been presented to the audience as neither wholly evil, in that it can be argued that he is suffering unjustly, nor wholly good, in that his sufferings are completely undeserved. Lear demonstrates both good and bad qualities to an extent, and it is possible to say that Lear is neither deserving nor undeserving of his sufferings in a straightforward way. This essay will therefore assess conflicting points of view relating to the original statement, and in analysing the evidence, will demonstrate the extent to which I agree with the statement. It is possible to say that Lear is deserving of his sufferings to an extent, and that he is now reaping the rewards of his arrogance, irrationality and foolishness. One critic of the lay, William Rosen notes in "How Do We Judge King Lear?" in Criticism, Vol. XIV, No. 3, Summer, 1972, pp. 207-26. 'Initially Lear is imperious, vain, and unwilling to consider any perspective other than his own' Such qualities are presented clearly to the audience in the opening of the play, when it is particularly evident that Lear is only experiencing the sufferings that he has imposed upon himself through his own folly. ...read more.

Middle

Lear assesses the situation befittingly, stating that it is 'sharper than a serpent's tooth, to have a thankless child' (Act 1, scene 4) In the following Act we witness a further demise in the authority of Lear with the punishment of Caius in Act 2, scene 2. Lear has arrived at Gloucester's castle and has discovered the the 'shame' (line 6) of finding Kent, his servant in stocks. This unnerves the King, and it is proof that he is continuing to be treated with contempt. Yet, when told the truth he is unwilling to believe that his daughter could be responsible for this crime against him. This blind faith in his daughter causes us to pity him all the more, as we know of her true intentions, which effectively mounts our dislike for Goneril and Regan all the more. What is revealed here is Regan and Cornwall's malicious and cruel natures. The mood and tone of this scene has shifted, indicating Lear's increasing mental stability. Lear's turmoil and cries for affection are evident to the audience, and so we feel all the more resentful at the heartlessness of Regan in her utter oblivion for her father's suffering. Lear in this scene is presented to us as an old, desperate man. One in which we can easily feel pathos towards in his obvious defeat. When Cornwall and Regan arrive he is pitiful and troubled, ending his first speech with a cry out to his daughter "O Regan!" (line 132) Regan however, employs the same sharp tone that Goneril used effectively in Act 1 Scene 4. She tells her father he should just accept his age and failings of judgement. ...read more.

Conclusion

little attention to previously, and in doing so realisied his priorities did not lie where they should have when he was King. In his madness, he considers topics such as the poor and homelessness and the corrupt justice system, coming to realise 'O! I have ta'en too little care of this!' More symbolically, Lear undergoes a terrible sense of self-purging through his interactions with Poor Tom and displays the stoicism of a true tragic hero. The sense of pity we feel for Lear increases as he learns to pity others, despite his own immense sufferings. Lear learns to distinguish between appearances and reality, as symbolised by the removal of his clothes. This act is a far cry from the character we saw in Act 1. At this point all symbols of power have been removed and therefore there is no longer any sort of barriers between Lear and humanity. With this action, Lear is likely to have won the audiences respect and support. Indeed, it is evident that Lear emerges from this torment a much more humble, loving and attractive character. In saying this, it is also important to recognise that there are some elements in this scene which make Lear less sympathetic. Although it is true that Lear undoubtedly gains a sense of enlightenment, it is questionable whether he gained a full sense of acceptance for his own guilt in the situation. Lear most certainly feels sorry for his treatment of Cordelia, but never for his foolish action of dividing his Kingdom on the basis of something so superficial as a love test. Similarly, Lear does not recognise that he, perhaps did not act at all times as a fair father should towards Goneril and Regan in his favouritism. ...read more.

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