Shakespeare - The portrayal of universal themes in "King Lear"

Essay by sugarnspice1000High School, 12th gradeA, May 2007

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"The Tragedy of King Lear" is a text that has immense textural integrity due to its universal themes and level of craft which is reflected by sophisticated integration of the tragic structure, language and characterisation. When interpreting a play like King Lear critically, one must realise that despite each and every one of our differing contexts the textual integrity of King Lear still remains applicable to a contemporary audience. The relevance of King Lear can be seen through the exploration of the universal themes that makes Lear a timeless literary masterpiece. When interpreting a play like the Tragedy of King Lear the context becomes of fundamental importance as ultimately it is the context that influences our interpretation of the play. Through exploration of universal elements of the human condition one can see how King Lear can be interpreted as a universal metaphor for society making Lear just as relevant and applicable to society today.

Whilst fundamental differences between the Elizabethan audience and contemporary society today exist, most notably that the Elizabethan era was a theocentric age while today is a more anthropocentric age this does not negate the universal themes of Lear. Such themes include love, family values and power which still exist in society today. This is why King Lear is still relevant to contemporary society.

Furthermore in the opening scene of King Lear the universal theme of love is explored. Shakespeare's exploration of love occurs primarily through the relationship of Lear and his daughters. This exploration or process of wish fulfillment occurs when Lear states "Which of you shall we say doth love us most?" Through a process of wish fulfillment we see how King Lear transfers his need to be loved to his daughters by demanding that they declare publicly love him in front of...