King lear: the development from a weak king to a mature father

Essay by wruz6High School, 11th gradeA+, February 2005

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A characteristic of Shakespeare's tragedies is that the tragic hero goes through a series of changes that enlighten him in one way or another. This trend holds true for Lear of King Lear. Though naïve and foolish in the beginning, Shakespeare leads Lear through a rough series of events that change the inept king to a more mature and wise man. Through Lear's suffering, not only does the former king grow more senile, but he also becomes wiser simultaneously. Exposure to human cruelty is a powerful force in changing one's character or outlook on life, and Lear epitomizes this as the accretion of cruelty upon him grows while Lear's becoming wiser and kinder is shown to be proportional to his treatment.

King Lear's arrogance and foolishness is evident through his gullibility and rash decisions, as shown from the opening of the play. As king, Lear believed that he was always right and knew everything.

His overconfidence led him to reason that he should give away his kingdom depending on what his daughters say to please him. Though untrue, Lear thought that he was an excellent judge of character and did not listen to Kent's advice at all. Furthermore, as king, Lear felt that everyone should love him and worship him. Thus, he did not think that Regan and Goneril would lie to him in such a way. On the other hand, Lear's basic flaw at the beginning of the play is that he values appearances above reality. He wants to be treated as a king and to enjoy the title, but he doesn't want to fulfill a king's obligations of governing for the good of his subjects. Similarly, his test of his daughters demonstrates that he values a flattering public display of love over real love. He doesn't...