Lear as a Tragedy

Essay by badfishUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, March 2002

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Lear as a Tragedy

The story of King Lear is a tragedy by the classical definition of the word. As stated by the definition, a tragedy is when a great figure falls a great distance through the mistakes brought on by pride. The reader is then left feeling pity and fear for the character's loss. The events in King Lear provide a great example of a tragedy, with King Lear himself as the great figure that falls a great distance.

As the story begins, Lear is the great and powerful king of England. He has many loyal subjects and three daughters who serve him well. The king is has reigned over his kingdom for many years and is now ready to divide it among his daughters so that he may rest and be happy for the remainder of his time. Things could not be much better for the king. However, he is a conceited man who needs praise and adoration to keep him happy.

This is where the problems begin.

After receiving praise from Regan and Goneril, he then turns to Cordelia. Lear asks her "what can you say to draw a third, more opulent than your sisters? (Shakespeare, act 1 scene 1, lines 87-88), speaking of course about Cordelia's inherited section of the kingdom. She responds with "nothing" (Shakespeare, act 1 scene 1, line 90). This simple and honest response causes something to go off deep inside of Lear that would change him for the duration of the story.

Although Cordelia was true and honest in her word, Lear misunderstands her and takes her honesty as disrespect. When he banishes Cordelia from any inheritance, it is very apparent that something is wrong with his state of mind. Regan and Goneril discuss this in Act 1 Scene 1; "You see...