King Lear. The seeds of tragedy are sewn in Act 1 scene 1. To what extent are the events inevitable with reference to the opening?

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Question: The seeds of tragedy are sewn in Act 1 scene 1. To what extent are the events inevitable with reference to the opening.

According to Aristotle a tragedy should consist of a tragic hero; a character of noble status possessing a fatal flaw. He proposed that the hero’s downfall should be a result of his own actions and that he should have a chance to learn from his mistakes during the play. Aristotle’s theory of a tragic flaw is designed to allow the audience to engage with the hero, regardless of the character’s higher status or power. This view also suggests that a tragedy is a play which causes pity and fear amongst the audience for the tragic hero; in Shakespearean tragedies the Hero’s flaw is often lust or ambition, which an audience is able to identify with therefore the hero’s demise causes the reader to sympathise with the character more.

During Shakespearean time, king ship was considered to be granted by God. As a result it was believed that the down fall of a king would result in the destruction of society. Expanding on this further, a Shakespearean audience would have viewed the king as being incapable of making poor decisions therefore Lear’s tragedy may have been considered as an ‘accidental tragedy’.

There are many events in the opening which result in a series of tragic occurrences later on in the play. When Lear gives away his authority to Goneril and Regan, he leads himself to cruel treatment. As a result, his people are also plunged into corruption and disorder. The authority that Lear represents falls apart in the very opening act making tragic events inevitable. However, it could be argued that by dividing the kingdom before his death, Lear is preventing chaos which would occur after his death. Handing his kingdom to his daughters symbolises trust and acceptance in the first scene.

It is suggested that Lear’s descent begins with the love test.

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                                “….‘tis our fast intent

                                To take all cares and business from our age,

                                Conferring them on younger strengths, while we

                                Unburdened crawl toward death.”

Lear’s need to be reassured of his own importance indicates his weakness and flaw implying he is a tragic hero and therefore tragic events are to follow. The verb ’crawl’ has connotations of an animal, this foreshadows the confusion and animal like mental state Lear is to be plunged into.  Stanley Cavell proposed that Lear's wish to avoid revealing his inner self and his love motivates the love test, thus causing his ...

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The writer makes several potentially interesting statements, some of which are controversial, but does not develop them or explain them clearly to the reader. Similarly, there is evidence of interesting background reading, but the ideas from these secondary sources are introduced too briefly to serve much purpose. **