The Tragic Character in King Lear
In William Shakespeare’s King Lear, the similar events that Lear and Gloucester experience result in a parallel plot sequence for the story. Lear and Gloucester are similar characters because they are experiencing similar problems while playing the role of a father. Their children also have a similar eagerness for power, a problem that both Lear and Gloucester should not have to deal with while addressing serious mental and physical dilemmas. And although the two characters are very similar, the story of King Lear is tragic, and Gloucester’s is not.
Lear’s tragedy is a result of bringing fate upon himself, which in turn stripes Lear of everything, and only in his final moments does Lear resolve some of his problems with a catharsis. To ensure that Lear’s story is indeed tragic while Gloucester’s is not, an examination of tragedy is necessary. Also, the overall situation and well being of the two characters is helpful in deciding who brings upon their own problems, and who becomes a victim throughout the play. Decisions made by Lear are also determining factors of tragedy, even from the very beginning of the play. The events that Lear and Gloucester experience are similar, but their positions in society are different. Consequences are much higher for mistakes made by Kings, rather than mistakes made by the Earl of Gloucester.
Aristotle says that a real tragedy is an imitation of an action that is serious or grave involving someone of elevated status. The same person, however, brought demise to one’s own self and to the surrounding characters. When Lear gives up his kingdom to his daughters, he has completely ceased any continuation of the family’s lineage to the throne. Also lost along with …
…aw: full oft’t is seen, our means secure us, and our mere defects prove our commodities.” (p. 78) Only after the attack did Gloucester become a character with better vision.
The character King Lear fit Aristotle’s definition of tragedy. He was a lofty character that brought about his own misfortune, and in the end of the play experienced a moment of catharsis. Gloucester was not a tragic figure, for few people created concerns for the old man with grave misfortune during the play. If Lear would have lived longer, or if foolish decisions were not made, Lear’s story would not have been a tragedy. If Lear did not have his greedy children deceiving him, they would not have let their father lose control of the Kingdom, as well as the family lineage to the throne. The disasters could have been avoided, but they were not, so the story becomes a tragedy.