King Lear: Methods & Analysis (AO2)

Address terms – Gloucester’s use of the derogatory address term “the whoreson” signals his own adherence to the “plague of custom”, and also draws attention to Edgar’s precarious state in this feudal world- Kent continues refers to both “Royal Lear” and “old man” when Lear is rejecting Cordelia, so Shakespeare is using the different address terms to already indicate Lear’s imminent downfall- Kent uses contemptuous address terms to insult Oswald, such as “finical rogue” and “barber-mongerer”. His contempt for Oswald is part of the antithesis Shakespeare constructs between Kent and Oswald, as they are loyal to “good” and “evil” respectively
Tone – “Oh me! My heart! My rising heart!” Here, Lear’s tone is hysterical and one of helplessness, emphasising his mental deterioration- Albany says “you are not worth the dust which the rude wind blows in your face” to Goneril, clearly denoting his new-found contempt for his wife, whom he once had a “great love” for. Shakespeare uses tone here to signal Albany’s new allegiance with justice and morality
Possessive pronouns – “Our darker purpose”, “We unburdened crawl towards death”Shows Lear’s actions to be selfish. – “We that are young shall never see so much…”Edgar’s use of the same possessive pronoun used by Lear at the beginning of the play is interesting – Edgar is evidently selfless, and yet adopts the same “we”. Conversely, Shakespeare might be using the possessive pronoun here to denote Edgar’s sense of responsibility for the future of Britain. Emphasises that the downfall of Lear’s kingdom has been a collective experience, although most are now dead. Thus, it perhaps presents Edgar as emotionally unstable, unable to comprehend his solitariness in the kingdom. Or does it refer to the poor peasantry that were selfishly omitted from Lear’s initial speech?
Connotations – “Our darker purpose”, “darker” possesses ominous connotations, arguably foreshadowing Lear’s “[dark]” destiny- “Study deserving”, again possessed ominous connotations. Edmund indeed “[studies]” Lear’s “hideous rashness” in Act 1, as well as how Kent’s “plainness” results in his banishment, and deceives accordingly
Structure – Act 3 Scene 6 sees Gloucester helping Lear escape to Dover, ensuring he receives “welcome and protection”. In Act 3 Scene 7, Gloucester is heinously punished for this act of goodness, so Shakespeare uses the structure to reinforce the moral repugnance of Lear’s world- Edmund’s soliloquy (Act 1 Scene 2), in which he plots against his brother in order to “have” his “land”, is mirrored by Edgar’s soliloquy (Act 2 Scene 3), in which he is dejected from “custom” and takes on the “basest and most poorest shape”. Edmund’s ascent is structurally juxtaposed against Edgar’s descent.- Act 4: Scene 1 consists of “good” characters, Scene 2 of “bad” characters, Scene 3 of “good” characters, Scene 4 of “bad” characters and Scene 5 and 6 of “good” characters. Lear is reunited with Cordelia in Act 4 Scene 6, so the “battle” of good and evil is seemingly “won” by the “good”. However, this has the overall effect of intensifying the utter tragedy of Act 5.- Edmund and Edgar only meet twice in the play, once in Act 1 and once in Act 5. Does this suggest some degree of restoration?
Plosive consonants – Lear: “paternal… propinquity and property” – Lear’s rage at Cordelia’s refusal to conform to the demands of the superficial love-test. Control of language (contrasts with later in the play)- Edmund: “bastardy”, “base”, “baseness” – Edmund’s contempt for social convention, and his determination to “grow” and “prosper”
Triple structure
Blank verse
Rhyming couplet
Diction choices
Complex speech
Simple speech
Third person tense
Royal pronouns
“Thou” and “you”
Questions – In the storm, Kent enters and asks “How fares your grace?” A torrent of questions, “What’s he?”, “Who’s there? What is’t you seek?”, “What are you there? Your names?” ensues. Suggests a wild confusion and a lack of certainty about the future, or perhaps that Lear is completely disassociated from the court, as Kent represents part of the world of “robes and furred gowns” and is shown to be dislocated on the heath.- “So young, and so untender?” and “Had he a hand to write this?”; Lear and Gloucester similarly use questions in response to what the perceive to be their offspring’s disloyalty. Shakespeare employs questions to display their initial disbelief, which highlights their similar blindness to true duty, though this will soon become anger.

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