Power inShakespeares play King Lear and Gabriele Muccino's film The Pursuit of Happyness

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Sinead Cummins

Advanced English

Mrs Anderson

Power: “King Lear” & “The Pursuit of Happiness”

He who controls others may be powerful, but he who has mastered himself is mightier still. Good afternoon/morning ladies and gentlemen. Power is a debatable concept, constituting questions such as what actually defines true power, authoritative power vs. personal power and why individuals seek power. These ideas are explored in Shakespeare’s play King Lear and Gabriele Muccino's film The Pursuit of Happyness through their language features and structure.

True power is defined as self-awareness and self-control. Shakespeare portrays this idea through symbolic blindness and parallel structuring between characters. King Lear personifies the absence of personal power at the beginning of the play as he creates a “love contest” between his daughters, revealing his need for flattery to affirm his position. It is through his lack of self-awareness that he is vulnerable to manipulation and deception despite his initial authoritative power. Kent, Lear’s loyal companion who himself has personal power, attempts to help Lear “see” through his ego: “when majesty falls to folly...” he proclaims (1.1.144). The characters of Lear and Gloucester, both fathers, are parallel: eventually, Gloucester's eyes are plucked out in Act 3 Scene 7, in which characterises a literal and metaphorical blindness symbolic of his inability to "see" the truth about his children, like Lear. Towards the end, Lear states “I have too long taken notice of this” and it is through Edgar, Gloucester’s true son and Kent in disguise, that they come to a realisation. Edgar and Kent are the true characters with personal power that guide Lear into breaking through the “blindness” that has been as a result of his ego and avarice. We gain an understanding that true power is not a measurement of the authority or control one has over others but the control one has over one’s self.

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In “The Pursuit of Happyness”, true power is defined as happiness with one’s self, enabling one to be limitless. Throughout the protagonist, Chris Gardner’s life, he was told that he couldn’t achieve certain things by those who had authority over him. Throughout the film, Chris undergoes a self-transformation symbolising this process of mastering one’s self, through the training course for a job at a company. This concept of happiness in one’s life is the key characteristic of true power in the film. This is seen through the camera angles and movement during the last scene of the film. During this there ...

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