To what extent do you consider "King Lear" to be a Christian play?

Essay by angel_no7 January 2007

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King Lear can be interpreted as a Christian play and there are innuendos and references in the text to hint at and support such perception. However, there are others which alter and give different understanding of the play.

Lear's journey of suffering to redemption can be seen as a personal 'pilgrimage'. To what once was pride and blindness, now in his affliction he thinks of and shows concern for others, learns to feel for the 'poor naked wretches', recognizes the falseness of flattery and the brutality of authority. His sight is purged by scalding tears that he sees how power and all things in the world are vanity, except love. Moreover, his fate is to learn to love only to lose the loved one, and to reach a ripeness through suffering and struggle, only to die. Therefore, this transformation in the tragic hero's character both recalls and questions Christian teaching.

Cordelia can be seen as the agent of Lear's regeneration, and idealized as a saintly figure or an embodiment of divine love. Hence the reason why Shakespeare attributes religious diction, 'the holy water from her heavenly eyes'. By associating her with Christian compassion, she may appear a sacrificial victim whose death is alleviated by the promise of her ascent to heaven. Furthermore, it can be made possible to find in the image of Lear bending over the dead Cordelia, an image of PietÃ

Edgar is another character, equally religious to Cordelia. It seems that believing that 'the gods are just' can be connected with his spirituality. With this religiousness, on the other hand, is connected his endurance. He never thinks of despairing, instead he embraces the 'unsubstantial air' which has blown him to the worst and thinks that 'the worst returns to laughter.' He is sure of this, not only...