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Extract From William Shakespeares King Lear English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1458 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The extract from William Shakespeare’s King Lear, Act three, scene two, describes an old king whom is advancing thru his years and his best days have long been passed. In the beginning of the play, King Lear bears the title of the royal king of Britain and comes on stage with an entourage, but as soon as he speaks, we discover that his is just a petulant and almost senile old man. Lear had been removed instantly as the respected patriarch and the royal potentate by defying his moral senses in selecting the appropriate heirs to his kingdom. He desperately hoped to be loved and cared in return but instead, he has entered into a state of purposelessness by being overdriven into grief and anger after being denied entrance by his two daughters, Regan and Goneril. Lear storms out of her castle while in the midst of a violent and stupendous storm and ironically it helped him clear his mind by cursing and enduring thru the storm. Also in contradiction, King Lear’s warring stance against nature and his reprobate daughters, presents him with an awesome stature and grandness. A noticeable shift occurs from Lear losing his wits to new strength and moral insights. This scene denotes the relationship between Lear and the Fool, while also examining the shift in King Lear and the fool’s character. This is arguably the most intensified scene in King Lear as the end marked the beginning of change in Lear.

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The scene instantaneously starts with Lear being surrounded by a dark mystified heath drenched with Adam’s ale. The “dramatic” background is important in regard to the scene as the background heightens the dramatic effect produced by the dialogue and the storm is created as an ambiguous symbol. In this scene, a heath, on which Gloucester said, “for many miles about there’s scarce a bush,” (Act 2:2, Line 491-2) night, darkness and a storm provide the dramatic background. These surroundings are all very suggestive. The wide-stretching heath, offering no refuge, reminds us that in the whole realm of Britain, there is no place to shelter the king. In the raging of the storm, we see a picture of the storm, which is also raging within the king’s heart. Lear expressed his opening speech with rage and fury. The great exclamation marks after each elemental forces of nature have already revealed a significant change in Lear. The contexts of Lear’s rants are identical as the turbulent storm occurring in the background. Lear’s inner development is portrayed in images more than any other characters than have been seen in Shakespeare. He sets image after image as independent and direct visions. The images illuminating Lear’s state of mind are presented as if there are no aims other than to describe itself. These images are fragments being repelled out of Lear’s inner visions.

The dramatic background along with Lear’s rants affect the readers with a saddened and empathised mood. The element of empathy becomes gradually more prominent in this Shakespearian play. Although we have watched Lear’s mental state deteriorate, he still maintains his physical prowess.  He defiantly curses the storm, impervious to the weather, whilst he rejected the Fool’s urges to his master, Lear, to take cover. There is a parallel storm running between the literary meaning and the figurative meaning which were his emotions. King Lear is arguably more focused on his emotional storm than the blizzard since he described the tempest as, “sulphurous and thought-executing fires”. The irony lies here. If Lear wants to repel his angered thoughts and emotions, then should he not be thankful for the elements to execute his thoughts? Regardless of the ironic scene, we begin to unload guilt off of King Lear and fill him with loving thoughts. This is caused by our increasing empathy towards Lear as we see his true perspective because of Shakespeare’s writing style. In act one, our hostile feelings towards Lear are complicated. But in act three, we see a shift in Lear’s true personality and dilemmas as we feel his pain and regrets. Lear clearly accepts the truth regarding to his wrong decision-makings and his loss of power that leaves him helpless.

In King Lear, we are faced with a wealth of key and central ideologies. The system of sins is one of the most significant themes being reflected in the play since King Lear donates his whole kingdom to the two most dishonourable daughters. As a reward, Lear and his loyal men faced tragedy. In parallel, King Lear and Kent both have loyal children and disloyal children. However, both men are blind to the truth, and both end up banishing the loyal children and making the sinful ones their heirs. Arguably, in act 3, scene 2, the awakening of Lear is one of the three important milestone in the system of sins which is the key theme. Ironically, he gains consciousness by losing his mind while expelling out all his negative emotions at the elements as he begins with, “Blow winds and crack your cheeks! Rage, blow!” (Act3: 2, Line 1). Coincidentally, Lear expresses these traits in his own action. In his second speech, his message to the Gods is simply to help him take revenge. In the ideology of Elizabethans, if a man will not or cannot enter into the solution of his own problems, nature would solve it for him. Lear asks the God to flood the land of humans, make thunder tremble the whole earth, crush the round globe into flatness so that every seed is grinded and crushed. In all, Lear wants to see the race of ungrateful humanity perish.

In his second speech, Lear clearly blames the elements of an unnecessary punishment, as he proclaimed, “I tax not you, you elements, with unkindness, …, your horrible pleasure. Here I stand your slave.” (Act 3: 2, Line 16-18) Lear also accuses the elements to have joined forces with his “two pernicious daughters” to battle against “a poor, infirm, weak and despised old man” as Lear describes himself to the elements in lines 19 through 20. Throughout this scene, readers should also discover a frequent comparison to the Bible. For example, when he wanted the elements to drown the earth “Till you have drenched our steeples, drowned the cocks!” (Act 3: 2, Line 3) Shakespeare referred to the story about Noah’s ark. When Lear was expressing about, “Vaunt-couriers of oak-cleaving thunderbolts,” it could connect to these lines with God, who “Thundereth marvellously with his voice” (Job 37.4-5) in addressing Job. Actually the story of Lear could be easily compared with the Book of Job. Does Shakespeare create Lear to be defiant towards God? It sounds like Lear is calling on his own punishment. If this were to be a Greek play, God would instantaneously punish the defiant man.

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At first sight, it seems that the fool fastens on the disgrace and misery of Lear. He sneers at him in a way that, at first, seems unkind and cruel. But, we ought to remember that it was the fool’s profession and duty to turn everything into ridicule and that his imperfect and childish intelligence makes it difficult for him to break through the force of habit, which also is the cause of his harping on one idea. Until now, we have always seen the fool striving by every means he can think of -rhymes, riddles, or quaint illustrations -to mock Lear for his lack of good sense. We are, therefore, struck by the change when we find that all this power of jesting is now being used to comfort his master and make him forget his miseries. Here, instead of voicing his unending reminder of Lear’s folly, he speaks words expressive of loving care and consideration. When, from force of habit, he utters one more rhyme on the old theme, he quickly adds a ludicrous picture of a pretty woman making faces in her glass to change the current of his thoughts. We know that any sustained effort must have been difficult for the fool.

Shakespeare successfully created the climax of King Lear in Act 3 scene 2 as readers understand the complex of humanity and the sins that are brought along as “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) The most noticeable change in King Lear’s character is when he proclaimed, “No, I will be the pattern of all patience, I will say nothing,” as that marked the beginning of a change. Lear developed a clear mind at that instantaneous moment by enduring without complaining about the pain. Therefore he becomes a resurrected man. However, how is it possible that the strongest man (King Lear) lose?


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