King Lear Study Guide
May 8, The Bill / Shakespeare Project takes a look at marriage in King Lear, but doesn't find much love and affection. Lear verbally links Goneril to Albany, but only as potential parents Wherein we must have use of your advice. As Albany enters, Lear curses Goneril with infertility or, in its stead, a thankless child. sincere advice, thus endowing their original take of the situation with a . Instead, we must explore the character flaws and relationship. Posts about Goneril written by Vincent Hanley. Only Albany, the husband of Regan, and Edgar survive to sustain and restore .. The relationship between Lear and his Fool is part of the tragic movement of the play; Through his behaviour and language, the Fool offers advice all of which is based on a practical wisdom.
Lear experiences hatred initially in his contact with Goneril. She is indifferent to him and she instructs her servant Oswald to be as negligent of her father as he wishes. Lear reacts with a terrible anger. His language is full of hatred and revenge. Having given everything to his daughters, they turn on him.
The language and images used by Lear indicate their inability either to give or understand love. These images deprive the daughters of their humanity but, more importantly, they deny their maternal instincts, traditionally associated with nurturing and love.
The ferocious nature of these images prepares the reader for the cruelty of Goneril, Regan, Cornwall and Edmund later in the play. Eventually Lear rejects Goneril and Regan and sets out on a journey of self-discovery. It is vital for Lear that he rejects his two cruel daughters if he is to learn that love cannot be bought, that it is not a commodity. He is helped to make this discovery by some very noble and good characters such as Cordelia, Kent and Edgar who represent the virtues of love and goodness, loyalty and truth.
This flaw in his character means he is at the mercy of his unscrupulous son, Edmund. The blinding scene allows the audience to see, on stage, the distinction between sight and insight, truth and pretence. Gloucester must lose his sight in order to gain insight and once this has happened he is reunited with Edgar, his legitimate son, who loves him. Here we see three human beings at their lowest ebb and this pathetic scene helps us to realise what the world would be like without love.
The return of Kent and particularly of Cordelia is very important for the regeneration of Lear. Ultimately, however, it is the return of Cordelia that changes Lear.
He is astounded by her forgiveness and overwhelmed by her love for him. His hysteria has subsided and he speaks with a voice full of conviction and strength. The audience is roused by the sense of pathos in his actions and language when Cordelia dies. Carrying her from the place of execution, he lays her before the audience, trying in vain to find evidence of her breathing.
The shocking demise of Goneril and Regan emphasises their fiendish nature and the fact that they are the personification of evil as it exists in the world. They prey upon each other and become victims of their own hatred and greed.
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Both must die at the end of the play because, like Edmund and Cornwall, they have nothing to offer humanity. They love only what benefits themselves and destroys others.
The play deals with the culture of Kingship and Monarchy at that time. The characters are drawn from the aristocracy or nobility.
These characters are public figures whose actions and subsequent sufferings become universalised. The plot of the play deals with inter-family relationships and ensuing intrigue, rivalry and conflict. Lear makes a fatal error regarding the nature of kingship at the beginning of the play: Lear has been King of Britain for many years, he has no male heir and so roles change and he hands over his authority to Goneril, Regan and their husbands.
In this act of abdication Lear disrupts the social order and causes a general anarchy in his kingdom.
- An Analysis of the Relationship between Goneril and Regan in King Lear
The blinding of Gloucester is a barbaric act which coexists with the Christian insights expressed by Lear in some of the Storm Scenes and at the conclusion of the play. The play refers to particular things such as clothes and courtly manners that are an innate part of this cultural environment.
Lear sheds these symbols of wealth — rich clothes and fine speech — in his movement towards truth. The play shows the human being reaching truth when these false adornments of culture have been stripped away.
Lear sheds his sanity and descends to a state of physical and emotional nakedness before he is finally clothed in the truth. The main thing to remember when discussing this text in relation to others on your Comparative Course is that this is a Shakespearean Tragedy, and hard though it may be to believe, King Lear is the one and only tragic hero of this text. Traditionally, the conventions of tragedy require certain tragic elements.
Generally, in Shakespearean tragedy, evil is the cause of the catastrophe.
He believed that his tragedies, including King Lear, depicted the struggle between good and evil in the world. His tragic hero is always a man of exceptional nature, a great man with a more powerful consciousness, deeper emotions and a more splendid imagination than ordinary men.
He is a sensitive being with a spiritual bias. He has a divided soul, he is torn by an internal struggle.
An Analysis of the Relationship between Goneril and Regan in King Lear
However, this tragic hero has some weakness, some flaw that contributes to his downfall. He succumbs to this powerful failing in his nature and is destroyed by it. His ambition pushes him into a sequence of action which inevitably leads to his death. Lear attempts the impossible, to give up his kingship and yet he tries to retain the trappings of power, his retinue of knights, the pomp and ceremony that goes with majesty.
However, the inevitable consequences of his actions work themselves out and the result is tragedy. The general sequence of a tragic work is the story of a hero who is endowed with a fatal flaw. This flaw causes suffering, the loss of everything and finally death.
Shortly after he has abdicated his kingship he suffers a violent confrontation with Goneril and Regan and he is forced to accept their terms or face humiliation and poverty out on the heath.
In an extreme state of degradation and suffering throughout the storm scenes he learns the meaning of life and grows in humility and self-knowledge. All of this occurs with the help of his Fool who plays a key role here. Likewise Gloucester is blind to the reality of human nature and fails to see through the wickedness of his son Edmund.
Ironically it is only when he is physically blinded that he attains a real insight into the truth of things. Both characters acknowledge their earlier flaws and both develop and learn to see the real truth about people and about themselves. The deliberate parallels that are set up between the two plots add to their realism, by giving credibility to a play where the characters and events would be otherwise incredible.
Another effect of this deliberate repetition is to universalise and broaden such themes as filial ingratitude and evil. The story and theme of the sub-plot is repeated in the main plot. Two credulous fathers are betrayed by selfish and unscrupulous children. Both are victims of false appearance. Typical of human nature, Lear is swayed by the sycophantic flattery of his two eldest daughters, Goneril and Regan, while his true and loving daughter, Cordelia, is left out in the cold.
Even Lear himself divides his kingdom for a greedy reason, wanting all of the perks of being king, but none of the responsibility. The sweet, innocent Cordelia stands little chance against the treachery of her sisters. Instead it is nature that governs the outcome, a sort of Darwinian survival of the fittest in which the most desirable qualities are avarice and deception.
Although the play takes place before the rise of Christianityit was written for a Christian audience. Many English protestants believed that God had a plan for everyone and that everything that happens in the universe occurs for a reason and will eventually lead to a greater good. In this play however, this belief is notably absent. What happens in the play does not seem directed towards any greater good, by the end of the play the king and all of his daughters are dead, leaving England under control of Albany or Edgar.
Instead the play is directed by the greed of men and women who want happiness, but have done nothing to deserve it. The tragic ending of the play reflects a nihilistic viewpoint where there is no promised end outside of chaos and death. By dividing up his kingdom King Lear wishes to give up the responsibility of being king, but keep all of the benefits. This is another form of greed, different from his daughters, but still clearly wrong.
This wish to retain his power is made evident by Lear banishing Kent shortly after stepping down from the throne: Hear me, recreant, on thine allegiance hear me! That though has sought to make us break our vows, Which we durst never yet, and with strained pride To come betwixt our sentence and our power, Which nor our nature nor our place can bear 1.
He has gone against his natural father daughter bond by banishing Cordelia and he now uses power he no longer has to banish Kent from the kingdom. His description of these bountiful natural resources only makes Goneril and Regan salivate more, hatching plots to outdo each other and win a bigger piece of land. But the King of France, who admires the young woman for her honesty and spunk, marries her; they leave to live in France.
Goneril and her husband, the Duke of Albany, first host Lear, his fool, and his entourage of a hundred knights. But in time, the eccentric old man and the rowdy behavior of his companions vex her sorely. In response, Goneril says, By day and night he wrongs me; every hour He flashes into one gross crime or other, That sets us all at odds: I'll not endure it.
If he dislikes the treatment he receives, she says, he can move to the castle of Regan and her husband, the Duke of Cornwall.
There, she says, he will receive similar treatment, for Regan and she are of one mind in their view that their father is a pesky old man. Meanwhile, the banished Kent presents himself in disguise, calling himself Caius, and tells the king he wishes to serve him: After Lear accepts him, Kent learns from one of the knights that Goneril no longer regards her father with affection.
Lear, regarding him as a tool of Goneril, insults and slaps him. For good measure, the disguised Kent trips Oswald and pushes him away. It contains more wisdom than Lear realizes: Have more than thou showest, Speak less than thou knowest, Lend less than thou owest [own], Ride more than thou goest [walk], Learn more than thou trowest [know], Set less than thou throwest [in a game of dice, bet less than you can afford to lose] Leave thy drink and thy whore, And keep in-a-door [indoors], And thou shalt have more [more money] Than two tens to a score.
She tells him to reduce their number, keeping only those who behave. Lear defends them as honorable men and curses Goneril as a monster. He tells her husband, Albany, never to have children with her: Lear and his company then depart for Gloucester's castle, where Regan and her husband, Cornwall, are to pay a visit.
Lear's fool then picks at the old man, the better to make him understand himself and the folly of his headstrong ways. Edmund says that when he refused to participate, Edgar ran at him with a sword and glanced his arm.
When he recovered and defended himself, Edmund says, Edgar ran off. Edmund shows his father the bleeding injury to his arm, which Edmund himself had inflicted.
Gloucester believes Edmund even though Edgar dearly loves his father, and he orders his servants to pursue Edgar. When Regan and Cornwall arrive for their visit, Gloucester repeats what Edmund told him and commends the latter for foiling the plot.
Cornwall promises to support Gloucester against Edgar and praises Edmund for his virtue and loyalty to his father.
Regan and Cornwall then reveal the purpose of their visit: There, he encounters Oswald and heaps insults upon him. When Kent draws his sword against Oswald, the latter cries for help. The commotion attracts Regan and Cornwall, and Cornwall orders Kent placed in stocks a wooden frame that closes around the wrists and ankles. Out on a heath, Edgar, aware now that he has been framed, hides in the hollow of a tree to avoid capture.
Realizing that people everywhere will be on the lookout for him, he decides to disguise himself as a lunatic beggar, griming his face, knotting his hair, and stripping off most of his clothes. After Lear arrives at the castle, his fool pokes fun at the immobilized Kent still disguised as Caiussaying that he wears "cruel garters" and that when "a man is over-lusty.
Kent reports that he delivered Lear's letters to Regan and Cornwall at their castle at the same time that letters to Regan from Goneril arrived. Regan and her husband then immediately left to see Gloucester, telling Kent to follow to await their reply to Lear's letter. Kent finishes his report with an account of his clash with Oswald and his immobilization in stocks. Lear enters the castle and returns a short while later with Gloucester. The king is angry that his daughter and her husband have so far refused to leave their chamber to see him.
But Regan defends her sister and suggests that Lear apologize to her. After Goneril arrives, the two sisters gang up on Lear. In a rage, he storms out with his fool into a tempestuous night. Winds howl and rain falls in torrents as the elements mimic the raving anger of Lear.
The king observes that nature has joined with his faithless daughters to torment him. Kent, who has followed Lear, persuades the old man to take shelter in a hut. By and by, Edgar, now acting the part of a wandering beggar and lunatic, finds shelter in the same hut Lear occupies.
His wits now failing him, Lear identifies with Edgar and strips away his royal robes to become like Edgar. Gloucester, torch in hand, also finds his way to the hut. He advises Kent that Lear must leave quickly, for his daughters want him dead. If Lear goes to Dover, Gloucester says, he will be safe. The King of France and his army will soon land there to help the old king win back his throne.
Lear and his fool—along with Kent and Edgar—then travel with Gloucester back to his castle. There, they take shelter in his farmhouse. After Gloucester enters the castle, Lear—now out of his wits—announces legal proceedings against Regan and Goneril, addressing Edgar as "a robed man of justice" 3. He tells them to arraign Goneril first and then begins testifying against her. Edgar and the fool play along. When Gloucester returns, he tells Kent he has overhead a plot to murder the king.
Hurriedly, they lay the demented Lear in a litter Gloucester has provided, and Kent and the fool carry him off toward Dover.