"It's not Lear's weakness but his strength that makes the story a tragedy." Discuss.

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Natasha Patel

“It’s not Lear’s weakness but his strength that makes the story a tragedy.” Discuss.


I would disagree with the statement above, since we can see from the very beginning of the play, that Lear makes the mistake himself of abdicating his throne to fuel his ego, which eventually results in his downfall. By abdicating his throne, not only is he plunging his family and community into crisis by abandoning his responsibilities, he is also violating God’s natural law. In the 18th Century man’s task was to obey God’s law and maintain his position in the hierarchy, fulfilling his duties. King Lear by giving away his kingdom went against this and violated the natural order. This creates a parallelism between another of Shakespeare’s plays, “Macbeth.” Macbeth when he becomes king is not a true king, as he is not behaving like God’s deputy on earth, and instead he acts like a usurper. Both Lear and Macbeth abdicate their responsibilities, disobeying God’s law, which has devastating consequences to the family and country causing disorder and chaos later on in the play.


Following this, Lear out of pride and anger begins to banish those around him who genuinely care for him, starting with Cordelia. This is another of Lear’s tragic flaws, which prevents him from seeing the true faces of people because his pride and anger overrides his judgement. As we see in this first act, Lear does not listen to Kent’s plea to see closer to the true faces of his daughters. Kent has hurt Lear’s pride by disobeying his order to stay out of his and Cordelia’s way when Lear has already warned him “The bow is bent and drawn, make from the shaft.” Kent still disobeys Lear and is banished. Because of his flaw, Lear has initiated the tragedy by disturbing the order in natural law by dividing the kingdom, banishing his best servant and daughter and giving up his throne. This results in Lear surrounding himself with people who only wish to use him. This is precisely what happens and it is through this that he discovers his wrongs and amends them. Lear is finally thrown out of his daughters’ home and left with a fool, a servant and a beggar. This is when Lear realises the mistake that he has made and suffers the banishment of his two eldest daughters.

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Lear’s overpowering “pelican daughters,” Gonerill and Regan show no respect for their father and thus cause him relentless suffering. They abandon him and estrange him from his kingdom, which causes him to lose sanity. The dismissal of Lear’s knights is significant since his followers are a symbol of Lear’s might and importance, but they also represent real fighting power. With only the support of a few old men, Lear will not be able to assert himself or regain control of the kingdom. His threat and curses seem increasingly empty as the scene unfolds. His speeches become increasingly disjointed, as ...

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