Analysis Of Shakespeare's King Lear

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For centuries, Shakespeare’s compositions have fascinated audiences and academics alike. King Lear, one of Shakespeare’s most established tragedies, details King Lear’s catastrophic downfall from the throne of Britain. Based on an earlier work by Geoffrey of Monmouth, Shakespeare adapts “Leir of Britain” from Historia Regum Britanniae as the groundwork for King Lear. Although Shakespeare’s theatrical production remains undoubtedly comparable to its source, significant differences between the two works result in distinct outcomes. Shakespeare, in comparison to Monmouth, opts to develop Lear to a greater extent. Additionally, Shakespeare elects to alter Monmouth’s composition through the inclusion of unfortunate events. While Shakespeare’s King…show more content…
Lear, in Monmouth’s work, laments the lack of a male heir and in admission of age, resolves to divide his kingdom amongst his daughters: Goneril, Regan and Cordelia. When his youngest and most beloved Cordelia fails to please him, however, Lear promptly banishes her in rage. Similarly, Shakespeare’s King Lear depicts an identical scene in which Lear furiously declares “Here I disclaim all my paternal care” (1.1.125). Lear’s decision to disown Cordelia in haste exhibits lack of patience and foresight. The significant resemblance between the two works provide insight of Lear’s inability to consider, which eventually leads to his downfall. In contrast with Monmouth, however, Shakespeare further emphasizes Lear's shortcomings through the addition of Kent. The Earl of Kent speaks for Cordelia after her wrongful dismissal, in an attempt to convince Lear’s reconsideration. Lear, adamant that Cordelia had wronged him, refuses to accept his counsel and instead banishes him. Lear threatens that “If on the tenth day following / Thy banished trunk be found / . . . The moment is thy death” (1.1.200-202). Rather than reassess the situation, Lear pronounces Kent, his fiercely loyal follower, a traitor. Shakespeare’s addition of Kent allows demonstration of Lear’s ignorance and his tendency to succumb to rash decisions, both…show more content…
Subsequently, after the banishment of Cordelia, Lear quickly realizes that his errors in judgement have fixed him at the bottom of the wheel. Dejected, Lear cries out “O irreversible decrees of the Fates that never swerve from your stated course! . . . the punishment of lost happiness is greater than the sense of present misery” (Monmouth 31). Lear’s desperate cry is an allusion to the wheel of fortune, and it signals the final realization that he has lost everything. Similarly, Shakespeare’s King Lear prominently emphasizes the wheel of fortune in acknowledgement of Lear’s descent. Within both King Lear and “Leir of Britain,” Lear’s allusion to the wheel serves as the turning point towards his demise. While the downfall materializes in both works, however, Shakespeare’s addition of plot elements distinguish the two tragedies. Shakespeare’s King Lear features a parallel storyline of Gloucester and Edmund. In resemblance of Lear, Gloucester elects to trust one son over the other, Edmund over Edgar, respectively. Correspondingly, Edmund turns out to be unfaithful, while the loyal Edgar becomes poor Tom O’Bedlam. Regretfully, Gloucester laments his former judgements: “I have no way and therefore want no eyes. / I stumbled when I saw” (4.1.19-20). Gloucester’s lack of foresight and remorse is equivalently shared with Lear.
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