Is Lear Responsible For His Suffering And
Death? Essay, Research Paper
Though Shakespeare’s plays were written hundreds of years ago, they are still very popular today. His tragedies are especially popular, and describe in great details, the consequences of one’s decision. Its purpose is not only to appeal the emotions of the audience, but also to illustrate some types of moral lessons. According to the classical notion of tragedy, a tragic hero is a character of high social standard who processes a “tragic flaw”, which eventually results in his downfall. As we can see in King Lear, Lear appears to serve as a prime example of a tragic hero. During the play he undergoes many intense sufferings and calamitous events. However, Lear is responsible for all this suffering because of his vanity when dividing his kingdom, his foolishness in trusting the crafty people and his rashness in banishing Kent and Cordelia. All of the pain that Lear suffers can be traced back to the very beginning-his error in giving up his throne. At the beginning of the play, Lear says, “Tell me, my/daughters-/Since now we will divest us both of rule,/ Interest of territory, cares of state-/Which of you shall we say doth love us most,/ That we our largest bounty may extend/ Where nature doth with merit challenge.” (I, i, 52-58) Within these few lines, one can see Lear’s first sign of vanity. In order to receive more land from Lear, his daughters have to proclaim their love. Lear is measuring their love with land. Naturally, his first and second daughters, Goneril and Regan, lie about their love, but Cordelia honestly proclaims that her love will half belong to her husband and half to her father. She also says she loves her father “according to her bond, no more nor less”. (I, i, 102) Since Cordelia cannot speak flattering words, Lear decides to split his land in half between Goneril and Regan only. Kent tries to dissuade Lear, but is banished because of his frankness. As one can easily see, Lear only loves to hear flattering words. He even gets mad when people give frank advice. Later on in the story, Lear said to Goneril, ” I’ll go/ with thee./ Thy fifty yet doth double five-and-twenty,/ And thou art twice her love.” (II, iv, 296-299) He measures his daughter’s love with material things again. This time he measures Goneril’s and Regan’s love by his hundred knights. It is this vanity that prevents Lear from seeing see the true faces of people and thus gradually leads to his suffering and also his downfall. Apart from Lear’s overwhelming vanity, his foolishness is also one of the causes of his suffering. After the division of his kingdom, Lear says that he will only keep the title of king, reserve a hundred knights for himself and live with Goneril and Regan in monthly turns. Not only has he abdicated his land, but he has also gives away all of his authority. It is foolish to give away everything. He should have at least kept a castle for himself. If he had done so, he would have had a shelter and would not have been so helpless when Regan kicked him out into the storm. Another example that shows Lear’s naivet is that he trusts his daughters blindly. He believes that Goneril and Regan love him as much as they proclaim. After the quarrel with Goneril, Lear says to Regan,
“No, Regan, thou shalt never have my curse. Thy tender-hefted nature shall not give Thee o’er to harshness. Her eyes are fierce, but Thine Do comfort and not burn. ‘Tis not in thee To grudge my pleasures, to cut off my train, To bandy hasty words, to scant my sizes, And, in conclusion, to oppose the bolt Against my coming in. Thou better know’st The offices of nature, bond of childhood, Effects of courtesy, dues of gratitude. Thy half o’ th’ kingdom hast thou not forgot, Wherein I thee endowed.” (II, iv, 193-205)At this time, Lear still thinks that Regan will take good care of him despite the fact that he has been treated poorly by Goneril. It is once again proved that his naivet and foolishness brings him the sufferings and the calamitous events that he must bear later in the play. Lear’s rash decision to divide the kingdom not only alters his life, but also has a great effect on the lives of those around him. His untimely abdication of the throne creates a chain reaction that affects everything. His rashness can first be seen when he banishes Kent, a loyal servant to Lear, and disowns his youngest and favorite daughter Cordelia. He banishes those who genuinely care for him and surrounds himself with people who only wish to use him. At this stage, Lear’s rashness has led to his blindness. He cannot see beyond the mask that the evil people wear, leaving him vulnerable. Lear’s rashness and blindness has brought about suffering to everyone involved. Gloucester loses his eyes; Cordelia and Kent are banished; Albany realizes his wife’s unfaithfulness. Everything that happens to these characters are affected by Lear in one way or another, and if Lear had not banished Cordelia and Kent, then the two sisters would not have been able to plot against their father. Without the plot of the two sisters, Gloucester will not have lost his eyes because of his alleged treason. Out of pride and rashness, Lear cannot see the true faces of people. As a result, he has not only ruined himself, but has ruined the innocent ones also. Due to his vanity, foolishness and rashness, Lear is the one who initiates the whole tragedy, which affects so many people. Obviously he is completely responsible for all of his suffering. His suffering during the storm, his loss of sanity and the death of Cordelia is what he must pay for the fatal misjudgments that he has made. Though all this suffering seems to be a little too harsh for him, his death at the end of the play is justified. Before he dies, he realizes his faults and learns a lot from his mistakes. Humans can always get the best out of the worst situations. We are all responsible for our mistakes. However, one can usually learn only after suffering and this lesson is well exhibited in King Lear.