King Lear Essay Research Paper Imagery in

King Lear Essay, Research Paper

Imagery in King Lear (King-Lear)

In the immense amount of writing that William Shakespeare

had done in hiscareer as a playwright and or writer in general there

are bound to besome consistencies and reoccurring themes that make

his writing so popular and interesting. In many cases it ishard to

tell whether the thematic structure that many writers follow is intentional

or not, but it is possible that there is a reasoning for a specific kind

of imagery that a writer likes to outline his/her writing after.

There are dominating images which are characteristic of Shakespeare’s

workthroughout, however in some of the earlier plays they are very

obvious and in many cases intentional. Imagery, as defined by the

Sixth Edition Handbook to Literature, is in its literal sense “a

collection of images in a literary work that may be an object, phrase

or entity.” The Handbook explains that imagery is often not intentional

but seems to be a basis for a look at a deeper meaning of a certain

piece of work. It is important to be aware of certain recurrent images

which are symbolic in Shakespeare such as the use of light and its

components in Romeo and Juliet, disease and how it is used in King Lear

and what I will be discussing in this paper the use of the heart as an entity

and how it is used inthe dramas written by William Shakespeare.

The heart image is seen literally over a thousand times in the

works of Shakespeare with a frequency of almost thirty per play and

mostly in the tragedies. With so many references of the heart used

in the tragedies and the typical time frame used to perform each play,

which was about two hours, the audience might hear twelve to fifteen

heart images an hour and as many as one every five minutes. Of course

there are manyinconsistencies in the allocation of the term within the

plays with King Lear obtaining most of the references.

In King Lear, which seems to have a tragic double plot, the

images referring to the heart cue the reader or audience to the confusion

that is evident in the love between theparent and the child and the

breakdown of the social bonds in which the play begins. In the play

Lear seems to forget the love that he has always had for his favorite

daughter, Cordelia, whose name itself in Latin means heart. When

Lear offered one-third of the kingdom to his daughter Cordelia she

does not know what to say and cannot explain her feelings when she says:

Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave

My heart into my mouth: I love your


According to my bond; no more nor less.


In this we see that Cordelia cannot take the appreciative path

that her sister’s took in order to make their father happy and

confident to leave the kingdom to his daughters. The whole time all

Lear wanted was to be comfortable that the kingdom was going to be

left in good hands. We see a better use of the veracity of he word

(heart) when Lear goes to visit Regan and she will not come out to

greet him.

Lear: O, me, my heart, my rising heart!

but down!


I am wondering if in this passage Lear is talking of his broken

heart released from the clutches of his daughter or if it represents

his blood pressure that could be raising because of his anger in his

daughter, either way the use of the heart in this instance has a

dramatic foreshadowing affect on the rest of the play. King Lear is

a man who is portrayed as a very compassionate man who lives on the

fact that his trust in his daughters will never be abaded. The betrayal

by his loved ones sets up the impact of the play which in turn shows

how dramatic the use of the heart and all of its imagery components

is for King Lear. At the end of the play when Lear loses his last

daughter Shakespeare leads us to understand that he had lead a life

of war and turmoil and has transformed himself from being a bitter,

crusty, old man into becoming a caring and complete human being. Some

critics say that Lear might have died from a heart attack from all the

stress he had to endure in such a short amount of time. I think he

died from a broken heart from the lossof his daughters, his sanity,

and the peaceful life he so desired during his retirement fromm the



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