Evil In King Lear Essay, Research Paper
?King Lear? is a tragic play relating to the remorselessness and malevolence in 17th Century England. At this time, Queen Elizabeth I was coming towards the end of her reign, and James I was the successor to her. ?King Lear? was supposedly a play showing the new monarch how not to behave and act at this testing time. By abdicating, King Lear turns the Chain of Being, the philosophical belief at the time, upside down. To understand the true meaning of this play, one would have needed, and still needs, to know how God came 1st in superiority, then the monarch and at the bottom, their family. The way Lear betrays God and Goneril does likewise to Lear, symbolises the majority of evil in this play. The Chain of Being makes the whole play easier to understand and epitomises what pandemonium of life could materialise into if the wrong monarch is chosen. Evil is detectable throughout the play but appears to be particularly prominent in certain scenes. Two examples of these are Act II Scene 4 and Act III Scene 7. They both portray and manifest evil, but in two contrasting ways. However, what they do have in common is that they both would have captured and captivates the Elizabethan audiences. One way Shakespeare manages this is through the use of dramatic irony. In Act I Scene 1, Goneril and Regan talk about the rash decisions of their father in amongst the tempests of emotion?the unruly waywardness that infirm and chloretic years bring with them? The significance of this is that they are already beginning to direct hostility towards their father. The word ?chloretic? suggests that it is almost a disease to be old and that he may have to be dealt with like a disease as it is an especially evil word. This sets of the base for the rest of the play as it is the vital storyline/theme. The actors in this time would have had to have spoken these specific words evilly, as well as emphasising the ?s? sound at the end of ?waywardness? and ?years? giving a hissing sound, which is related to evil. As it is so near to the beginning of the play, it is almost a hint to the audience that the rest of the play will be similar. This specific part of the play is dramatic irony due to the fact that in Act II Scene 4, Lear is rejected by the injustice of his daughters. This is an example of where the real truth is hidden, but gives the audience an idea of what is going to happen. In contrast to this is in Act II Scene 7. In this scene, evil is portrayed in alot more of an up-front style where the audience can see what is going to occur from the beginning. The servants have been sent to retrieve Gloucester and the sisters, Goneril and Regan, begin to discuss Gloucester?s fate?Regan: Hang him instantly Goneril: Pluck out his eyes? A device which is being used here is stycomythia. This is used as it shows Regan and Goneril almost arguing, seeing who can come up with the most gruesome consequence for Gloucester. At this period, plucking out of ones eyes and hanging would not have seemed so far-fetched, and therefore the audience know, before Gloucester, of his own nemesis. You can tell he is unaware of this as when he enter the room, he says?What means your Graces? Good my friends…? The language such as the words ?Graces? and ?friends? indicate a stark contrast to the way the sisters have talked about him earlier in this scene. Here, he is talking to them as if he is their subject and the register is formal, whereas specific words such as when Regan says ?ingrateful fox? is a huge contrast to this. This is particularly strange as in this period of time, you would treat guests to your house well, and talk to them formally. The sheer malevolence and petulance of the sisters is unmatched throughout the play. The effect this would have had on the audience would have been great as they would not have expected hosts, especially not women, to talk in this manner to such a well-respected man. The fact that he is their guest is even more of a contrast. Although Goneril and Regan were at the height of evil in this scene, in Act II Scene 4, they also receive some evil language from Lear?s opinions. It begins with Lear and his daughters, with an apparently genuine relationship, beginning to have a petty argument. The King having abdicated would have already came as a great surprise to the audience, but when his daughters, to whom he has given the whole country to, turn against him, they would have been amazed and astonished. One example of this evil language is?You heavens, give me the patience, patience I need!-You see me here, you Gods, a poor old man, as full of grief as age? The use of assonance is prominent here as you can see Lear is beginning to loose control, in the words such as ?need?, ?see?, ?me?, and ?here? for example. They are repeated vowel sounds which sound as though he is repeating a lot of what he is saying and this is the main sign of him loosing control. The exclamation mark incorporated within this section show exaggeration and shows how Lear is attempting to regain control of his speech, but every time, his tempest of rage is becoming more vigorous. The fact he is straying from the very controlled iambic pentameter is also a sign of his rage. This is another difference with Act III Scene 7. Goneril and Regan are controlling all of the time and so, whenever they, or one of their ?allies?, talk in long passages, their speech is also controlled by the use of the iambic pentameter. But as the scene develops, they begin to loose control, due to the excitement they feel watching a man they made their enemy being tortures. One such example is?Regan: Ingrateful fox, ?tis he.Cornwall: Bind his corky arms…Cornwall: Bind him I sayRegan: Hard, hard. O filthy traitor? As I had previously mentioned, the stycomythia in the speech shows them all wanting to argue over his fate as they are loosing control, almost sadistically, and this is very evil. King Lear is a tragedy, and, because there is so much violence and murder, it needs to dramatise evil well. The fact Shakespeare had no lighting, special effects or musical elements to his plays mad this all the more difficult. But the way he has incorporated all the vital elements of a good play seems to be almost effortless in his plays. Whilst Shakespeare wrote this play, it is obvious he has taken his Elizabethan audience into account, and that is what makes this such an enthralling play from the beginning to the end.