King Lear Essay, Research Paper
Happy Ending? The Tragedy of King Lear is indisputably a tragedy, in its purest form. The hero, Lear, appears larger than life, but the one flaw in him that makes him human, is the flaw that ends his life ultimately. Although the play ends with numerous violent deaths, the ending is nonetheless happy, largely due to moral reconciliation and realization by many of the characters. Act V, scene iii in particular is the scene in which such realizations are made.The most obvious reconciliation and repentance is Edmund s, when Edgar finally confronts him. Edmund is greatly moved by Edgar s speech and is repentant. He realizes that he has come full-circle (the wheel of fortune has put him back on the bottom, where he began in Act I). He also makes the statement Know thou this, that men/ Are as the time is. What he means is this: men reflect the times that they live in. For Edmund, he lived in a world of opportunism, as stated earlier by Gloucester when he said, Ripeness is all. This statement almost acts as complete redemption for Edmund s actions throughout the play. The reader will be able to realize that Edmund was living in a time of opportunity, and he took hold of it, tried to grab the brass ring of success by framing his brother. Even though the reader knows that what Edmund did was morally wrong, the fact that he realizes it now and is sorry for it is enough for the reader to offer forgiveness to him.The most tragic part of the play is undoubtedly the death of Lear in Act V, scene iii. However, it is in death (his and Cordelia s) that he realizes his wrongs and faults although it is too late to save her life or his own. When Lear re-enters carrying Cordelia s lifeless body, he had already become more fatherly than he had ever been, to the reader s knowledge. He accepts that he is a prisoner and must go to jail with Cordelia, but he makes the best of the situation, saying that they will act as God s spies, seeing all that men do not see. It is not until he joins Albany, Kent, Edmund, Edgar, and whomever else is present in scene iii that he realizes her death and, in doing so, puts himself under such strain that it kills him. His death marks for the reader the moment at which his love for Cordelia is at its pinnacle. His heart is so heavy and full of love for his hanged daughter that he cries and subsequently dies out of love for her. Before his death he laments her death, paying no attention to the others present and to Regan and Goneril s deaths. His final words about Cordelia and his futile attempts to revive her lifeless figure make up for his poor fatherhood and lack of expressed love for the one daughter he had that had true love for him.
Ultimately for Lear and Edmund, the final scene redeems them for their actions in Act I. Lear finally realizes that it was Cordelia who loved him most, and that she should have received the kingdom. Edmund realizes that his attempt to mark Edgar as a traitor was morally wrong and injurious to both Edgar and Edmund. Fay Weldon made a proper assertion in that the happy endings that make the greatest impressions on readers are those that end in realization and reconciliation, as it did in King Lear.