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Macbeth - Shakespeare, beginning of the 17th century.

Dissertation : Macbeth - Shakespeare, beginning of the 17th century.. Recherche parmi 294 000+ dissertations

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“King Lear” is a famous tragedy written by Shakespeare at the beginning of the 17th century. In this famous play there are two plots. The two stories are very similar, since they both show how men judge life depending on their views. The play is all about how men learn through suffering. The two principal characters, King Lear and Gloucester, contract different illnesses during the play that lead them to change in a better way. Consequently, the way they see life is changed and they develop, through the play, a greater insight. The issue of sight and its relevance to clear vision is a recurring theme. The blindness to the truth becomes more literal as the play progresses in Lear eventual madness and in Gloucester’s physical blinding.

To begin with, the main plot is about King Lear who suffers from hubris; he is a king overwhelmed by pride and arrogance. He has three daughters, Regan, Goneril and Cordelia. Lear wants to gives away his kingdom to his daughters. The problem is that according to the Elizabethans, a king does not have the right to give away his kingdom, given that it is a gift from God. However, in order to do so, he says that the one who would flatters him the most would have the bigger part of the kingdom (“Which of… most”, 143). As consequences, Regan and Goneril will flatter him so they would gain their father’s fortune. However, Cordelia, who is the favourite daughter, at the beginning of the play, refuses to tell him what he wants to hear in order to gain his wealth. Cordelia’s integrity prevents her from making a false declaration. She told him the truth (“Unhappy that… no more no less”, 144) since she believes she cannot give all her love to her father, because, if she does so, nothing will remain for her husband. He values Regan’s and Goneril’s flattery over Cordelia’s honest declaration. He decides to disclaim his paternity towards Cordelia and banishes her (“I disclaim … care”, 145). By doing so, he breaks a fundamental law of nature since parents should love their children in an unconditional way. When Kent, his loyal companion, tries to intervene, he is also banished (“See better… eyes”, 147). At this point, Lear swears by Apollo (147), the Shinning God, and it is a little ironic since Lear does not see how bad his decisions are. He is “blind”. The two villain daughters are surprised when they heard about Lear’s choices to get rid of those who are true to him. At this point in the story, we clearly see that there is something wrong with him. We see that he is obsessed with physical things, since he seems to trust language, not reality. He is blind to the truth since he bases his opinions only on appearance. For example, when Kent comes back to him disguised, Lear does not recognize him. Lear's vision is so superficial that the physical garments and simple disguise that Kent wears easily dupe him. When Kent says: “When majesty falls to folly” (p.147), it sets up the plot since Lear will become insane. As the play progresses, Lear starts feeling he is going mad (“O, let me… mad”, 174), and he questions his identity. He wonders if he is really himself or if he has lost his mind. This proves that he never knew himself and knowing whom you are was a really important aspects of the Elizabethans’ beliefs. Then, Lear realizes he made many mistakes in only taking to account physical things. For instance, Goneril refuses to allow him his hundred knights and Regan to accommodate him as agreed, so because of that, he is now homeless and he has nothing. This is a good example of filial ingratitude, which can be defined as ungratefulness of the benefits concerning a son or daughter from their parents; Regan and Goneril acted cruelly and in bad faith toward their father. By stepping down from the throne, he gave up all his formal authority to those who do not actually love him. What drove him toward the edge of insanity is by watching his daughters betray him and his inability to believe what he sees after all the flattery they bestowed upon him. After that, Lear curses his daughters (“My curses on her!”, 194) and heads outside, where a wild storm is brewing. This storm symbolizes the chaos in his mind. Lear makes a clear parallel between the weather and his mental conditions by saying “The tempest in my mind”, 209. Yet the storm also provides an example of the power of nature, from which not even a king is safe. Lear doesn’t outwardly question himself until the Fool appears and says, “I am better than thou art now, I am a fool, thou art nothing”(166). This is significant because by referring to nothingness, Shakespeare amplified the fact that without his title, his power and his wealth, Lear had nothing. In fact, as the Fool says, he is nothing. He is empty since all he had valued until now was insignificant and untrue; it was only based on his external sight. Now, he recognizes his own mortality and human fragility for the first time in his life. As he becomes insane, his dialogue looks more like monologue and his behaviours and values start to change. He refers to “fair daylight” at page 250, which means that he was in the dark, but now he begins to see. Furthermore, he starts to perceive his status as a king in a new light: instead of legitimate basis for privilege and extravagance, as a social construct. Lear sees that when meaningless compliments are put aside, language is trimmed to its true significance and he without a crown, is like any other men. He now understands that all human beings are equal. His notion of justice also changed in madness. Lear now believes there is a justice for poor and rich. However, he admits that there should be no excess and that everybody should have enough to survive; he cares about others (“Poor naked…this”, 210). Therefore, we can say that our narcissistic character of the beginning of the play had found some reason in madness. He now sees and understands the world around him by developing an inner eye, for example, he had gain clarity regarding the love of his three daughters. Lear knows Regan and Goneril had numbed him (“they flattered…dog”, 239), but he also shows gratefulness to Cordelia when he declares he would prefer go to jail instead of loosing her love (“No, no…cage”, 256). He acts like a father for the first time. Unfortunately, when Cordelia dies, Lear becomes totally insane, and does not support such a punishment for his mistakes (“I am a…sinning”, 206). (Nature of Justice-becomes kind. Give examples)

Secondly, the sub-plot of the play is about Gloucester and his two sons. Edgar is his legitimate son, and Edmund is Gloucester’s younger, bastard, son who stops at nothing to gain power. Edmund, jealous, manipulates his father by making him


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