Self-Perception in Shakespeare’s King Lear Essay

Thou shall honour thy father and thy mother, is not only one of ten powerful commandments but is also the foundation for King Lear’s perception of himself and his overwhelming situation in Shakespeare’s masterpiece King Lear. After a recent life-altering decision, Lear’s seemingly stable and comfortable world has been thrown into upheaval through the disobedience and lies told by not only his two daughters but also by his servants! Thus, after being dishonoured by his family and attendants, Lear forms an accurate perception of his situation, that he is “a man / More sinned against than sinning” (Act III scene ii lines 60 – 61).

To begin, Lear’s two eldest daughters dishonour him on several occasions. The first of three situations involves solely Goneril, the eldest. In Act I scene iii, Goneril gives a direct order to her manservant, Oswald:

“Put on what weary negligence you please, / You and your fellows. I’d have it come to question. / If he distaste it, let him to my sister” (14 -15).

She decided that having her father live with her was more than she could bear and, therefore, ordered Oswald to both disobey and ignore Lear from that point onward in hopes that he would soon leave her home. Thus, Goneril is explicitly disobeyin…

…More sinned against than sinning,” is unfortunately but truly accurate (III. ii. 60-61).

Works Cited and Consulted

Bradley, A.C. Shakespearean Tragedy. Macmillan & Co., 1965

Curry, Walter. Studies of the Structure of Shakespeare. London: Mass Peter Smith, 1968.

Shakespeare, William. King Lear. The Norton Anthology of English Literature: Seventh Edition.Ed. M.H. Abrams. W.W. Norton & Company: New York, 2000. Pages 1106-1193.

Webster, Margaret. Shakespeare Without Tears. Greenwich: Fawcett Publications, Inc., 1996.

Wells, Stanley. Reading King Lear. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1988.

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