How Clothing Imagery Defines the Characters Within "King Lear"

Essay by mos_qitoCollege, Undergraduate April 2006

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There are many ways in which a person can use their appearance as extensions of their personalities. Through viewing the attire of another, their age, income or class, interests, nationality or religion can be determined. A person with a pressed black suit, a gold watch, alligator skin briefcase and golfer tie can be classified as a middle aged, business man with a good income living in a city. This is all concluded from examining image that that man was presenting. The outward appearance of a character provides a direct connection to that characters nature, and helps the readers interpret their emotions. Imagery is a word, phrase, or figure of speech (especially a simile or a metaphor) that addresses the senses, suggesting mental pictures of sights, sounds, smells, tastes, feelings, or actions. Images offer sensory impressions to the reader and also convey emotions and mood through their verbal pictures. Clothing images can be used to deceive, reveal truth and suggest a journey of self-discovery, within a character.

Shakespeare uses clothing imagery within King Lear as a central theme in which readers may discern the complexity of the characters presented in the play.

Garments can be used to reveal as well as conceal a character choosing to show either of these feelings. They can deceive through the means of a disguise. In King Lear deception is an underlying issue that is expressed in many characters. Goneril and Regan use their elaborate costumes to hide their true personalities.

Thou art a lady:

If only to go warm were gorgeous,

Why, nature needs not what thou gorgeous wearest,

Which scarcely keeps thee warm. (Act II, scene iv, ll 301 - 304)

Lear states that if warmth were all that were needed, then his daughters do not need their elegant dress. He emphasises to them...