'Explore the ways in which Shakespeare Creates sympathy for Lear in the play 'King Lear'.

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‘Explore the ways in which Shakespeare

Creates sympathy for Lear in the play

‘King Lear’.

‘King Lear’ is a tragedy revolving around the central character King Lear, therefore the sympathy created must be meant for this character and his parallel Gloucester in order for the play to conform to the typical pattern of a tragedy play. Shakespeare creates sympathy for Lear by portraying him as an extremely powerful and foolish man thus heightening the sympathy felt by the audience when this powerful, foolish king transforms to an insignificant but wise man. Upon gaining further understanding on how the play would have been received by the audience at the time it was written, the sympathy created has a higher impact, as a lot of the language and imagery refers to the hierarchical order of the Elizabethan society. Throughout the play Shakespeare explores Elizabethan beliefs and laws using the text to express his stance on them. He manipulates these popular beliefs at the time to create sympathy with the audience as they are directly affected. An example of this is of the imagery of the animals to describe the daughters as evil as the audience at the time would strongly believe in the hierarchical order and understand the meaning of the imagery clearly. Throughout the play the sympathy is created in conjunction with justice, when the treatment to Lear is justified the less sympathy is felt amongst the audience thus the sympathy increases as the treatment towards Lear is so severe and beyond justification.

The resulting sympathy felt throughout the play is due to the balance of tragedy and justice in the play.

ARISTOTLE (On The Art Of Poetry):         ‘It follows in the first place that good men should not be shown passing from prosperity to misery, for this does not inspire fear or pity, it merely disgusts us. Nor should evil men be seen passing from misery to prosperity.’

Aristotle’s take on tragedies gives an insight to why sympathy is felt for Lear towards the end of the play and not so much in the beginning. However according to Aristotle’s theories we shouldn’t feel much sympathy towards Lear as it is his own mistakes that are the cause of his misfortune, this is untrue to ‘King Lear’ as the fine line between good and evil has become less abrupt since 320 BC when Aristotle stated this and in the time ‘King Lear’ was written (the Elizabethan era) the audience would have been more appreciative of Lear’s attempt to change his previous bad nature.

ARISTOTLE (On The Art Of Poetry):         ‘This is the sort of man who is not conspicuous for virtue and justice, whose fall into misery is not due to vice and depravity, but rather to some error’

Aristotle’s description on a form of tragic character is very fitting to Lear as the beginning of his down fall is to his flawed character; his lack of judgement.

Shakespeare uses evident changes in this play; changes in characters behaviour, changes in language, changes in beliefs; all resulting in changes in the degree of sympathy felt. Language is a very important aspect in a play not only its content but also the way in which it is presented and delivered to the audience. The punctuation can in turn affect the flow and pace of the text and is used in this way to give an insight into the circumstances of the play or the state of mind of the character.  An example of this is the apparent change in Lear’s language as he yields to a state of madness. As the use of punctuation increases the sentences become shorter and the flow breaks down and the pace increases thus giving an impression of lack of control (inciting his mad state of mind). Contrasting to the punctuation in Lear’s text at the start if the play as it is very controlled suggesting his feelings of control creating more sympathy amongst the audience as has lost his control over his life and is from that point not responsible for the further tragic events that take place.

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As stated earlier Shakespeare’s use of change is very important in creating sympathy the way in which Lear’s treatment towards the others characters differentiates from the beginning and the end of the play emphasises his change in character and reflects the change in the level of sympathy felt. Lear is introduced as a respected character amongst his loyal allies Gloucester, Kent and Edgar so when they feel such sympathy towards Lear it is portrayed to the audience that this sympathy is most deserving as it is hard for them to feel pity for someone who they once held at highest ...

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