The protagonist's attainment of self-knowledge shines through the darkness in Nino Ricci's Lives of the Saints and Shakespeare's King Lear.

Essay by stefxcoreHigh School, 12th gradeA-, October 2008

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Tragedies, be they modern or renaissance, rarely manifest a positive nature that transcends the bleakness of their character. The protagonist’s attainment of self-knowledge shines through the darkness in Nino Ricci’s Lives of the Saints and Shakespeare’s King Lear. The tragedy evolves from the beginning and reaches its apex, resulting in the protagonist’s acquisition of self-recognition and consequently outshines the catatonia of the story. Both main characters are more sinned against than sinning yet their suffering is necessary because it allows them to gain knowledge that they would not have otherwise obtained.

From the very first scene, the reader sees the darkness manifest in King Lear. Lear, a proud monarch used to getting his own way, decides to make a show of dividing his kingdom between his three daughters. To his misfortune, he commits three fatal sins that eventually lead to his despair. First, in a shocking display of rage, he disowns his honorable daughter, Cordelia, when she tries to be sincere towards him.

He responds with, “Better thou/Hadst not been born than not to have pleased me better” (1.1.67). In a similar blunder, he banishes his faithful servant, Kent. Finally, as he divides his land between his two evil daughters, Goneril and Regan, his fate is sealed and the process of this bleak tragedy is set into motion.

The darkness in Lives of the Saints is established later in the novel, beginning with Vittorio witnessing a blue-eyed stranger fleeing the shed where Cristina, Vittorio’s mother, has been bitten by a snake. It’s downhill for Vittorio from here as, though she survives the snakebite, his mother’s illicit affair with the blue-eyed stranger is somehow made public to the entire town, who respond in a superstitious and unfriendly manner. New to all these dark facets of human nature, Vittorio is...