King Lear’s Transition in Shakespeare’s Play, King LearIn the play King Lear, by William Shakespeare, the main character, Lear, takes the audience through his journey toward his enlightenment. At the beginning of the play Lear appears to be an arrogant man who is too much of the flesh. He associates money and power with love and respect. Thus, when Lear has given all this material possessions to his daughters, Goneril and Regan, he begins his long journey of self discovery. Through an analysis of two passages, one can see the transition of Lear from a man blinded by the flesh to a caring and compassionate madman that sees the truth.
The first passage comes from act I, scene iv. Lear’s arrogance is illustrated in this passage as he commands nature to make Goneril infertile ; “Dry up in her organs of increase, / And from her derogate body never spring / A babe to honour her!…” (I.iv.245-258). As Lear speaks angrily to an external subject, nature, he is really speaking angrily inwardly to his subconscious. As seen in Oedipus Rex, the realisation of a truth is very painful process and often brings out strong emotions such as anger. Usually the truth is presented to a character in small increments so as not to overwhelm the character. Thus, the anger displayed by Lear is a reflection of the pain he feels from his daughter’s betrayal.
The contrary of this is found in the second passage. In this scene the audience is shown humble Lear. When he says “Let copulation thrive; for Gloucester’s bastard son / Was kinder to his father than my daughters / Got ‘tween the lawful sheets. / To’t luxury, pell-mell! for I lack soldiers.” (IV.vi.110-114). This supports that Lear is much humbler. As seen in the first excerpt, Lear command…
…ence to better understand the nature of Lear; That is, what is going on inside him.
Through these two passages, one can see the changes in Lear’s language and the imagery he conveys about nature. These changes are a representation of Lear’s transformation from a sane man, blinded of the truth, to a madman, closer to the truth than any sane man. This study supports that Lear’s character has made a significant advance in his journey towards the truth.
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Young, David. Shakespeare’s Tragedies – A Collection of Critical Essays.Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, USA: Prentice-Hall, Inc. 1993.