• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

To what extent are Lear's and Gloucester's troubles brought on by "the surfeits of their own behaviour"?

Extracts from this document...


Yousif Ahmad To what extent are Lear's and Gloucester's troubles brought on by "the surfeits of their own behaviour"? Lear's claim that he is "a man more sinned against that sinning" is undeniably true, but the pathos of his fall is elevated - made more profound and resonant - by the inescapable reality that much of his suffering is ultimately self-inflicted. As voiced by Bradley: "the storm which has overwhelmed him was liberated by his own deed". Lear's fall is a product of conflict - a conflict that is alternately embedded in philosophical differences and a clash of generations. The most obvious generational conflict which exists in the play is that between Lear and his daughters Goneril and Regan. Nature is deeply rooted in the play (perhaps because it deals with a time before Christianity took a foothold in Britain) and is found both metaphorically and physically manifesting itself throughout: the main antagonism in the text comes in the shape of children (the natural preservation of oneself) doing something fundamentally unnatural (that being to turn against their own father). Numerous characters comment on the stark savagery of this throughout the play including Edgar, Albany and of course Lear himself: "Tigers not daughters", "Whose warped looks proclaim what store her heart is made on", "Twas this flesh begot those pelican daughters", "Ingratitude, thou ...read more.


Cordelia decides to "love and be silent" and in doing so hurts her father, stings him, cracks his heart through her refusal to put her feelings into words; by virtue of her position as Lear's favourite, he surely expected hers to be the most loving, generous and praising speech. An objective witness - audience and readers, for example - might say he was wrong, mistaken, cruel to reject Cordelia after she offered him no flattery. As Kent comments his "power to flattery bows"; but Lear is a man in decline, acknowledging his weakness and descent from power - and he finds that the daughter he loved most, the daughter he was depending on for dotage and utter affection, is unwilling to indulge him. Lear's pride - another of his fallibilities - makes it expected for him to cast out Kent when he opposes the King. Goneril and Regan's ingratiating appeasement is illusionary and vacant; but Kent and Cordelia's sincerity is brutal for Lear to face - thought morally purer, it provides no sympathy for Lear, a man now as much in decline as when he is later wandering the fields. Cordelia and Kent would rather be blunt than false; they would rather hurt Lear than lie to him. ...read more.


If Lear's folly is engendered by his waning mind then Gloucester's is caused simply by his inability to see the true nature of his sons until its too late - which of course the plucking out of his eyes by Cornwall because of Edmunds treachery is a cruel and ironic metaphor of. The fact that Edgar does not confront Gloucester about Edmund's lies suggests that he is willing to accept his father's decree because he believes he deserves the castigation and judgement. By mortifying his appearance Edgar perhaps betrays deep self doubt, which would explain why he accepts events as he does. This is doubtless a scenario familiar to many modern families, in which children go to great lengths to satiate the hopes their parents have for them. This is also attributable to Lear's daughters - if they have received no attention or support from Lear, then we can assume they in turn have no desire to support their father and owe him no devotion. The generational clashes - originating through Lear's and Gloucester's twin surfeits and superfluities - in King Lear demonstrate that familial conflicts are timeless (but so are familial joys, as evidenced by the reconciliation between Lear and Cordelia). ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our University Degree King Lear section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related University Degree King Lear essays

  1. Kingship and leadership and their absence have major implications in the play King Lear. ...

    you sir, you, come hither, sir Who am I sir? Kent: My Lady's father. Here we see how Oswald does not refer to Lear as king but simply as Goneril's father. Another example of lost power and authority in this act is when Lear's fool offers him his coxcomb and

  2. King Lear Is a Play Based Upon Love, Betrayal and Conflict. Discuss how King ...

    But through Lear's blindness, he is unable to see this. Again on questions if such a na�ve, hopeless character is fit to be in power of a country, i.e. Britain. They attempted to out do one another as Lear promised to part his Kingdom among them in proportions, as their affection for him should seem to deserve.

  1. Review and interpretation of King Lear

    Thus, they are ready to violate established bonds (like those between a father and child or between a husband and wife or between a king and subject) in order to pursue their own agendas. Fourth, by the end of the play, the opposing forces have largely annihilated each other.

  2. War is Peace: Perceptual and Societal Death and Rebirth in William Shakespeare's, "King Lear.

    Gloucester tells Edgar (disguised as poor Tom) to remove Lear from the situation and take him to the French camp in Dover to be with Cordelia. In Scene 4, Lear's madness progresses as he comes closer and closer to his own perceptual rebirth as he exclaims, "Thuo think'st much that this contentious storm/ invades us to the skin.

  1. King Lear, by William Shakespeare.

    In a way, Gloucester acts as a demonstration of what can occur when he endures immense suffering. Lear's anguish led him to insanity while Gloucester is led to despair and attempted suicide. Before Gloucester's attempt at suicide, he realizes that he has wronged Edgar and condemns his blindness of Edmund's

  2. King Lear: A Transformation of Self.

    In banishing Cordelia, the anger Lear displays, as well as, the punishment he inflicts are consequences of his blindness caused by pride and conceit. Because of his pride, Lear sees vice within Cordelia and virtue within Regan and Goneril, where none exists.

  1. How might different productions dramatise the struggle between chaos and order in King Lear?

    Even when Lear wanders in the storm, his merciless daughters "shut up [their] doors". Their treatment of their father reverses the existing patterns of rule where daughters have certain duties to fulfill, such as respecting and loving their father. Gonerill and Regan's monstrous demeanor is not only seen as ugly

  2. The Role of Gender in Shakespeares King Lear

    Cordelia is the person Lear had chosen to spend his retirement from the throne with, and her refusal to comply with the love-test initiated chaos in the play Being the only one of Lear?s daughters who actually loves him, Cordelia refuses to profess blinding love for her father, instead offering only that which is true.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work