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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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Introduction

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'. ...read more.

Middle

Psychologist, Sigmund Freud discussed, in his essay 'The Theme of three caskets' [1], the symbolism of Lear's daughters. He proposed that they represented the three fates of Greek myth. Cordelier symbolises, Atropos the goddess of death, so consequently by rejecting Cordelier Lear rejects death. Cordelier's reluctance to speak is associated with dumbness, which psychoanalysts interpret as a symbol of death in dreams [1]. This reference to death in the first scene emphasises that tragic events are unavoidable. Language in act one scene one foreshadows the events to occur, suggesting the inevitability of tragic events. Lear's downfall begins when he asks his daughters to show their love for him through language, the untrustworthiness of the language suggests the likelihood of tragedy. The noun 'nothing' is said several times in the opening. The word creates a feeling of emptiness; an emotion that causes Lear's madness, yet at the same time suggests that 'nothing' may be of more worth to Lear than everything. Gonerill and Regan say everything Lear wants to hear but Cordelier, who says 'nothing' is of more use to the king than his unworthy daughters. This also creates irony, as Lear is left with nothing in the end of the play and his life becomes meaningless. ...read more.

Conclusion

Gonerill and Regan abuse their power, but so does Edmund who is a male antagonist. This indicates, that perhaps Shakespeare isn't implying that women cannot cope with power, but that when authority is handed to those, that God doesn't wish it to be handed to, chaos and destruction is created. This further expresses the fact that king ship is granted by God. Some readers argue that the absence of a mother is what leads to the inevitability of tragic events. It is necessary for a mother figure in the play to ensure that Lear doesn't become an 'abusive patriarch' [2], as well as preventing Gonerill's, Regan's and Edmund's character from deteriorating. In conclusion to my essay it is important for the seeds of tragedy to be sewn in act 1 scene 1, as this provides the audience with a sense of the inevitability of tragic events keeping them engaged with the play. Further more, by foreshadowing tragic events in the opening, the play takes into account the perception of a good tragedy made by Aristotle. However, it could be argued that the seeds of tragedy in the opening are not necessary as this makes a tragic ending more unexpected and therefore the modern day reader may find this more exiting. Word count: 1562 ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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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.
**

Marked by teacher Val Shore 01/01/2012

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