Analysis of shakespeare's KING LEAR

Essay by chocolateandvinegarHigh School, 10th grade September 2004

download word file, 4 pages 3.0

King Lear, by William Shakespeare, is a tragic tale of filial

conflict, personal transformation, and loss. The story revolves

around the King who foolishly alienates his only truly devoted

daughter and realizes too late the true nature of his other two

daughters. A major subplot involves the illegitimate son of

Gloucester, Edmund, who plans to discredit his brother Edgar and

betray his father. With these and other major characters in the

play, Shakespeare clearly asserts that human nature is either

entirely good, or entirely evil. Some characters experience a

transformative phase, where by some trial or ordeal their nature

is profoundly changed. We shall examine Shakespeare's stand on

human nature in King Lear by looking at specific characters in

the play: Cordelia who is wholly good, Edmund who is wholly

evil, and Lear whose nature is transformed by the realization of

his folly and his descent into madness.

The play begins with Lear, an old king ready for retirement,

preparing to divide the kingdom among his three daughters. Lear

has his daughters compete for their inheritance by judging who

can proclaim their love for him in the grandest possible

fashion. Cordelia finds that she is unable to show her love

with mere words:

"Cordelia. [Aside] What shall Cordelia speak? Love,

and be silent."

Act I, scene i, lines 63-64.

Cordelia's nature is such that she is unable to engage in even

so forgivable a deception as to satisfy an old king's vanity and

pride, as we see again in the following quotation:

"Cordelia. [Aside] Then poor cordelia!

And not so, since I am sure my love's

More ponderous than my tongue. "

Act I, Scene i, lines 78-80.

Cordelia clearly loves her father, and yet realizes that her

honesty will not please him. Her nature is too good...