A Lesson Learned Too Late in King Lear
In the first half of the play, King Lear struggles with the problem of authority and the consequences of giving his own authority away. Lear’s eventual loss of sanity is a result of his ill judgement and unwillingness to part with his power as king. Yet, the issue of authority is not the only theme that is being dealt with in the play. King Lear is also about Lear’s search for identity and wisdom in his old age. The play explores the concept of the human worth in regards to Lear and the other characters associated with him. In addition, the play is about the shifting definition of Lear’s identity and human worth. Although the majority of the play is spent presenting the audience with these issues, the fact remains that the protagonist figure (Lear), and the other innocent character (Cordelia), die at the end although they are the characters who present the knowledge and issues of the play. It is necessary to understand the impact of the deaths of these characters because their deaths have the potential to cancel out the values and issues that they present and embody throughout the play. Yet, in the case of King Lear, the issues with which Lear struggles are not negated with his death. With the death of Lear and Cordelia, the audience gains more than a sense of loss from the deaths of these two characters who have finally come full circle and who have reconciled. The audience, more importantly, is presented with the tragic consequences of events that are set into motion and unable to be reversed or canceled. It is this main issue of consequence that is not negated with the deaths of Lear and Cordelia, but instead, strengthened with their deaths.
…, the audience is left with a purely, tragic conclusion. The audience is also left with a feeling of loss for the wisdom that comes too late for Lear. The fact that the play focuses on Lear’s search for wisdom and meaning in life gives the audience a sense that the wisdom he has gained has only come too late. Thus, the theme that remains is that of the inevitable and severe consequences of our actions. Ultimately, deaths of Lear and Cordelia serve as an illustration of just how dire the consequences can be.
Works Cited and Consulted
Brower, Reuben A. _Hero and Saint: Shakespeare and the Graeco-Roman Heroic Tradition_. Oxford: Clarendon P, 1971.
Leggatt, Alexander. _King Lear_. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1988.
Shakespeare, William. “King Lear”. _The Riverside Shakespeare_. Ed. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1994.