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'The play provides a striking demonstration for the human capacity for both evil and good'. In what ways do you find this true of King Lear and how important is it to the play's overall effect?

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Introduction

'The play provides a striking demonstration for the human capacity for both evil and good'. In what ways do you find this true of King Lear and how important is it to the play's overall effect? Much more than he gives a display of the human capacity for good, in 'King Lear' Shakespeare provides his readers with shockingly cruel characters, whose presence, scheming and manipulations, and their effects, are felt constantly throughout the play. Any 'good' present in the world of King Lear only manages to shine for a few brief moments. When good has triumphed, the victory has only come after great sacrifice and is almost always destroyed by further misuse of power by the few characters that can claim to have it. It is common for audiences to leave 'King Lear' with the feeling that good has not triumphed fully over the evil prevalent from the very start of the play. In King Lear, Shakespeare gives us many examples of this. . King Lear's prospects looked good prior the battle against his evil daughters and Edmund. ...read more.

Middle

In the same scene Edgar reveals his belief that "the gods are just", similarly thinking that it is the people, not the gods who promote the evil in the world. Lear's poignant scene on the heath also tells us that he thinks that people are the cause of all evil, as in his madness he asks Poor Tom if he is mad also because he gave everything to evil (his daughters). The clearest battle between good and evil in the play is focused on one event - the duel between Edgar and Edmund. This, pleasingly, is the one instance is where divine justice prevails. The subplot of the play echoes the main plot, in that both Lear and Gloucester have good and evil children, but reject the good children and reply on and trust the evil ones. Edgar, while a consistently 'good' character, could be seen to prove himself to be worthy of becoming the King when we see his compassion and forgiveness for his father. 'Poor Tom' refuses to let Gloucester die and rejects Gloucester's despair, still seeking a happy and just resolution of the events of the play. ...read more.

Conclusion

The forces expressing themselves in King Lear are of universal dimensions. Both good and evil find their purest and most powerful expressions, but it is the impression of evil that is most predominant and enduring. Kindness and goodness are not sufficiently developed to get expressed on that scale. It could be said that in 'King Lear' Shakespeare's evil, cruel characters are always more powerful than his good ones. When we recover from the horror that is presented, we discover that though evil is by far the most intense and penetrating force represented here, it is not either during the course of action or in the end a dominating influence against which all others are helpless. Instead, we find that this evil has been released into the world of King Lear by a chain of events it did not initiate, and that after a brief but terrible period of destruction those who were its instruments are themselves destroyed. A still deeper insight into the life portrayed here will reveal that what we took to be a thoroughly pessimistic portrayal of evil, suffering and destruction contains within it a process of growing human consciousness and evolving social life. Beckie Warren 13JW ...read more.

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