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University Degree: King Lear
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In both plays love is insanity, taking over the rational and lucid mind by delusion and self-destruction, which can only be cured when the insane are stripped of what they love the most and honesty, not deceit, take precedence.
So for them Athens and the people within it are insane. They feel they must flee the state into the forest away from Egeus and Theseus and the rest to be sane and free. In King Lear, Lear is insane at the beginning when his wealth and slaves surround him. However only until he has nothing left and he is out by himself, outside in the woods does he reach true enlightenment upon the situation. In both plays the characters are finally sane when they are out in the woods, away from everything that blinds them and makes/drives them insane.
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Over four-hundred years later Raphael Holinshed presented a more concise version of Geoffrey's version in The Second Book of the Historie of England, which offered little else to the story. Lear's madness may not have come from a literature source, but from the real life of Bryan Annesley. In 1603, Annesley was in his last years of his life when one of his three daughters tried to have him committed and to have his will contested. His youngest, Cordell (Cordelia), fought to have her father not deemed insane in an attempt to keep that off his permanent record.
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To underline the point, Beckett introduces many moments of farcical action (which are much more apparent in a stage production than on the page). Clov's attempts to kill a flea by pouring insecticide powder down his trousers (p.108) are a particularly gleeful example. For Aristotle, this would be the lowest form of comedy. According to his definitions: 'Comedy aims at representing men as worse...than in actual life' (Cooper ed., 1997). Beckett emphatically does this: it is hard to imagine characters depicted in a worse state than Nagg and Nell, human waste confined to a dustbin.
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In Act 1, Scene 1 Lear divides his kingdom among his two obedient daughters, Goneril and Regan. Cordelia, the honest daughter, is banished along with the Earl of Kent for attempting to stick up for her. This instance alone perfectly portrays one of the ways in which Lear views the world. Lear speaks of Cordelia, "...with those infirmities she owes,/ unfriended, new-adpoted to our hate, /dowered with our curse and strangered with our oath... (I.i, 231-234)." This shows that he thinks of her to be dishonest and uses adoption and dowry imagery to further outline her ostensible betrayal.
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Based on your study of the first two Acts, how well does Shakespeare present us with characters we can dislike?
Such techniques used within the first two acts ensure that the true nature and intentions of certain characters are obtained, by the way in which they are characterised and portrayed. Through the course of this essay, I will examine the various techniques present during the first two Acts in certain characters' dialogue, and the language they use generally and when placed in different situations, how their actions and decisions effect the audiences' interpretation of their character, the way in which they interact with other characters and how certain interactions will ultimately be perceived by a Shakespearian audience.
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