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Is Lear a Tragic Hero?

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Q Is Lear a Tragic Hero? Tragedy is defined in Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary as: 1) a medieval narrative poem or tale typically describing the downfall of a great man, 2) a serious drama typically describing a conflict between the protagonist and a superior force (as destiny) and having a sorrowful or disastrous conclusion that excites pity or terror. The play of King Lear is one of William Shakespears great tragic pieces; it is not a tragedy in itself, but also a play that includes two tragic heroes and four villains. I felt that a tragic hero must not be all good or all bad, but just by misfortune or by error of judgment he is deprived of something very valuable to him. As the play open once can almost immediately see that Lear begins to make mistakes that will eventually result in his downfall. The very first words that he speaks in the play are:- "...Give me the map there. Know that we have divided In three our kingdom, and 'tis our fast intent To shake all care and business from our age, Conferring them on younger strengths while we Unburdened crawl to death..." ...read more.


Throughout the rest of the play, the consequences of this error slowly and steadfastly increase until Lear is destroyed. There must be a change in the life of a tragic hero; he must pass from happiness to misery. Lear, as seen in Act 1, has everything a man should want - wealth, power, peace, and a state of well-being. Because a tragic character must pass from happiness to misery, he must be seen at the beginning of the play as a happy man, surrounded by good fortune. Then, the disasters that befall his will be unexpected and will be in direct contrast to his previous state. "I am a man more sinned against than sinning" this is Lear evaluation of himself when he is at his weakest. This quotation is derived from the storm scene in Act 3 Scene 2, before we accept this we must take into account Lear's condition and the consequences that have lead his to this dreadful state. King Lear is no ordinary man. ...read more.


In his madness Lear learns to endure his agony. Through his madness and suffering he becomes a better person, more humble, less egoistic and starts to care for the needs of others "Come on, my boy. How dos't my boy? Art cold?.." "Poor Fool and knave, I have one part in my heart that's sorry yet for thee." (Act 3 Scene 2) As Lear starts to pity other we start to feel pity for him. Later, when he knows he is to be imprisoned, he maintains this misfortune with a passive calmness. He has grown spiritually through painfully achieved self-knowledge and through Cordelia's love. The suffering of a tragic hero extends beyond himself, and it clearly did with respect to Cordelia as well as to Gloucester. We see the King as an exceptional being in the sense that he is very much like us, except that his emotions and behaviours are intensified. He experiences both internal and external conflict, and although he strikes us as being wretched, we never see him as contemptible. Rather we pity him. It is on these grounds that we consider King Lear a tragic hero. (1083 words) ...read more.

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