The integrity of King Lear

Essay by ahenHigh School, 12th gradeA, March 2007

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To what extent has the integrity of “The Tragedy of King Lear” been tested by your own reading of the playIn your answer, refer to the construction, language and staging of the play, along with an awareness of different ways of valuing it.

Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of King Lear has been carefully constructed to create a domino effect: had Cordelia said more than “nothing”, had Gloucester spoken to Edgar about the letter, and if Edgar had not decided to become a beggar he may not have been able to save his father. Harmatia is thus present as the audience wonders what would have happened had Edmond not ordered Cordelia to be killed. Hence the hand of fate or more appropriately, “the hand of the playwright” is evident and draws the audience’s attention to the immense suffering of humanity and to the idea of redemption. Though Shakespeare created the play with the purpose of eliciting Catharsis within the audience there is the idea that he took it too far.

A.C Bradley challenges the integrity of King Lear’s cathartic ending; “surely the tragic outcome of Lear’s error and his daughter’s ingratitude has been made clear enough and moving enough with a tragedy this should seem inevitable. But this does not. It is not even satisfactorily motivated. In fact it seems expressly designed to fall suddenly like a bolt from a sky created by the vanished storm”. Clearly he believes that the conclusion was overdone as there were far too many dead bodies on the stage and as the play became more horrific and gruesome the cathartic elements were minimised.

The character of King Lear possesses the fatal flaw of hubris. He is arrogant, self-absorbed, an imperious king who is unbelievably unrealistic. Especially in the division of his kingdom, his title...