King Lear As Tragic Hero

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 12th grade July 2001

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A tragedy in Shakespearean terms could be defined as a drama or literary work in which the main character, the tragic hero, is brought to ruin or suffers extreme sorrow, especially as a consequence of a tragic flaw, moral weakness, or inability to cope with unfavorable circumstances, such as death (The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition). The main character in the play King Lear is Lear himself, the King of Britain, who is displayed as a tragic hero because he displays the qualities that pertain to a tragedy. However, the tragic hero, according to A.C. Bradley, probably the most experienced man in the study of Shakespearean tragedy, is someone who goes through tremendous suffering. The tragic hero also takes the action that produces the suffering and calamity, and even cause chaos, which later leads to death. Other characteristics of a tragic hero include, a person who is of high degree.

(A.C. Bradley) King Lear would be a tragic hero because he was the king of England. Lear being a person, in a position of such high degree, was full of pride. Cordelia and Kent (Lear's youngest daughter, and his loyal noblemen) are banished by Lear because they offended his pride. This is apparent when Lear realizes that he is grown old and decided to give up his kingship to his three daughters Cordelia, Goneril and Regan, but under the condition that they all express their love for their father in public, which again can be recognized as boosting Lear's pride. This is because, one or even many will agree, love does not have to be shown publicly or by word of mouth to be true to heart. The first two speeches by Goneril and Regan are full of flattery and this once again...