King Lear

Justice -The concept of justice is a very important theme in “King Lear”-Especially significant is the existence of divine justice. -Throughout the play, good people are punished as much as the bad…sometimes even more. -What does this say about divine justice?-Lear himself and other major characters continually look to the Gods for help, yet receive none. -Shakespeare is implying that in reality there is no divine justice. -So are we screwed?-Not really. Shakespeare is trying to say that true justice can exist when people learn to behave justly towards one another. -In other words, you’re responsible for being a good person and you must be the change you wish to see in the world.
Family -So much of “King Lear” is composed of family conflict.-This makes family another influential theme within the play. -First of all, why would Lear stage that love test between his daughters in Act 1 unless he is unsure of their love and loyalty? -Lear’s relationship with his daughters gets even more complex when he banishes the only honest and righteous one (Cordelia) and gives away basically all his power to the selfish and manipulative daughters, Regan and Goneril. -Also lets not forget about the whole “Cain and Abel” scenario going on in the subplot between the Earl of Gloucester and his two sons, Edgar and Edmund. -Edmund is so jealous of his brother because Edgar is the legitimate son while everyone sees him as the “bastard child”. -So Edmund schemes against his father and brother leading Gloucester to banish his loyal and innocent son Edgar. -Talk about dysfunctional families.
Order and Chaos -The perpetual struggle between order and chaos is a recurring theme present throughout “King Lear”. -For one, Lear initiated the chaos by dividing his kingdom between his two disloyal daughters and getting rid of the one that actually cared about him. -As the play progresses, Lear begins to loose more and more of his power because of his mischievous daughters. -This loss of power drives Lear absolutely mad, so now he’s lost control of his kingdom AND his mind. -On a universal level, “King Lear” asks the question whether everything that happens to us is random or if there is some kind of order to the universe. -Was King Lear destined to loose everything, or did his decisions simply create a chain of random, yet connected events that led to his demise?
Blindness -Blindness is an incredibly important symbol is “King Lear”, and one worth analyzing.-We should know that in a story when a character is blind or becomes blinded, its almost NEVER for no reason. -Take Lear’s blindness for example.-In the intro, the audience already knows that Regan and Goneril are ingenue and just up to no good, while Cordelia is the only honest one.-But Lear is BLIND to the true intentions of his two eldest daughters and he banishes the innocent one.-Even Kent, his most trusted advisor warned him against it and he STILL didn’t listen. -What about Gloucester’s blindness?-First of all, from the way he talked about and treated Edmund as his “bastard son”, he should’ve known that Edmund would bear some sort of grudge. -In addition, Gloucester was supposed to be a powerful patriarchal figure, yet when told Edmund’s lies, he was revealed as being completely credulous and gullible.-He was BLIND to the evil actions of his son Edmund, therefore he was physically blinded later by Cornwall and Regan.
Lear’s Crown -Lear’s crown is a comparatively minute detail, yet when effectively analyzed one finds that it actually underscores the major themes in the play. -Lear enters the scene wearing “wild flowers” (pg. 91) on his head instead of his crown. -Now everyone knows that a crown is incredibly important to any king, as it is a symbol of wealth, power, and respect. -So why trade your crown for a wreath made of a bunch of flowers you picked? -This change represents Lear’s complete loss of power, dignity, and even sanity.-Shakespeare wanted his readers to truly see the major shift in Lear from a powerful and respected ruler, to a madman in the most deplorable of conditions.
Disease -Disease is a symbol that is continually mentioned throughout “King Lear”-We know that in a story, disease is always representative of something. -After Lear makes the mistake of giving Regan and Goneril all his power, their ingratitude really gets to him. -They begin to degrade and disrespect him at every turn-In his anger, “Thou art a boil, A plague sore” (pg. 50), he refers to his own daughter as a disgusting disease.-Wheres the significance in that?-Well in a way just like a disease, his ungrateful daughters are eating away at him.-Because of their apathy, he looses his self-respect, his dignity, and later even his mind.-Plus, doesn’t Goneril sound a lot like gonorrhea?

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