King Lear stuff

Characters: Lear: Lear is the main character in the play, King Lear. At the beginning of the play, Lear is a rash and unreasonable ruler. He asks for the praises of his daughters as a measurement of their love. He uses this as a way to divide his kingdom. During this scene, Lear becomes furious with his youngest daughter Cordelia for refusing to praise him, and banishes her from the kingdom. Lear also banishes Kent, his loyal servant for trying to talk Lear out of his decision. Lear assumes that after this situation, his other daughters, Regan and Goneril, will take him into their homes a month at a time, but this is not the case. Lear is blind to the reality of the situation and honestly believes that his older daughters love him more than his youngest, the one which has been faithful to him throughout her life. Regan and Goneril become upset with Lear’s lifestyle and throw him out in a storm. During the storm, Lear becomes mad. Lear finally begins to realize the errors of his way and sees through his daughters. Through his madness, Lear appears to be more rational and begins to analyze situations more carefully than he had before. Goneril and Regan no longer respect their father as a king, as they had before, because he had given up his kingdom. Lear does not realize that giving up his kingdom also means he is giving up all of his power and prestige. During Lear’s madness, he begins to realize the faults in his ruling style explaining that he had not cared enough for the poor and lowly, and was surrounded by advisors that had only praised him instead of doing their job. Lear fits into the motif and image of the wheel. Throughout the play, the image of a wheel reoccurs as the objectification of the reversal of roles and loss of power. Lear who had once been at the top of the social hierarchy is now at the very bottom because he no longer has his title or power, as he had before. Lear is then found by Corderlia’s army. During his reunification with Cordelia, Lear is remorseful for his rash and impulsive ways and realizes that Cordelia was the only daughter that had truly loved him. Cordelia and Lear lose the war for England against Edmund. Lear and Cordelia are then brought to jail. While being brought to jail, Lear has accepted his fate and explains to Cordelia that being imprisoned will not be completely unbearable because they have each other. He goes on to explain how wonderful it will be. This is ironic because jail is usually not a setting of hope or joy, the way Lear illustrates it. It is also ironic because Lear is now appreciative of the simplistic lifestyle a jail offers, opposed to his prior gluttonous lifestyle. During his time in jail, Cordelia is hung. Lear once again slips into madness and tries to believe that Cordelia is still alive. In this final scene, Lear also dies. Lear’s initial decision in the way the kingdom is divided brought all other consequent actions upon everyone involved in the play. Throughout the play, Lear transforms from a rash and angry king, to a rational and patient man with wisdom and insight. Unfortunately for the cast, Lear’s journey affects everyone involved. Goneril: Goneril is the daughter of King Lear and the sister of Regan and Cordelia. Goneril is also the wife of Albany. Throughout the play, Goneril is a representation of evil in the overall battle between good and evil. Goneril praises her father at the beginning of the play to receive her share of the kingdom. As the play progresses the audience is exposed to Goneril’s character. Goneril disregards all rules of morality and plots to kill her father. This is especially evident at the beginning of the play while she is praising her father and towards the end of the play, when Goneril wants her husband to be killed so that she could carry out her relationship with Edmund. Goneril lies while praising her father and has absolutely no intention of following through with any of the false remarks she had made during her speech. Goneril believes that any mean is justified if it eventually brings about the ends that she desires. Goneril also plots the murder of her husband in order to continue her relationship with Edmund. This plot is mostly spurred out of competition with her sister, Regan. Regan’s husband had been killed earlier in the play, and Goneril views that as a threat because it allows Regan a more legitimate opportunity to elope with Edmund. Goneril’s decisions are fueled by her highly competitive nature as well as her desires. Goneril feels no remorse throughout the play regardless of her decisions, and often calls the defenders of good cowards. Goneril eventually commits suicide as a grand illustration of her power over her husband. Goneril is stubborn and even in death refuses to give her husband any information or allow herself to fall victim to the truth. Goneril also upsets the order of nature, which demands that the father rule over his offspring. Because this order is disturbed, Goneril plays a major role in the chaos that ensues throughout the play because of her role in the disturbance of nature. Goneril is the personification of evil in the play because she follows no moral standard. Regan: Regan is the daughter of Lear, and sister to Goneril and Cordelia. Regan is married to Cornwall. Regan is also a personification of evil in the battle between good and evil. Regan also lies in her praises to her father, and has no intention of caring for him after taking his belongings. Regan differs from her sister in that she is slightly more competent in her treachery and deception than her sister. Regan is polite to her father and attempts to create excuses when she does not allow him to stay with her when Lear wants to move in with her. Regan sounds somewhat reasonable at the beginning of the play, but it becomes obvious through her actions that she is just as evil as her sister. Regan also has no respect for the elderly. This is evident in the scene where Gloucester is blinded. Before Cornwall plucks out Gloucester’s eyes, Regan pulls the hairs of Gloucester’s beard. Plucking a man’s beard illustrates the lack of respect a person has for the man. A beard is also a metaphor for a man’s wisdom and age. Regan obviously does not regard wisdom and age and believes she is superior to Gloucester in this scene. Regan also has no remorse when her husband pulls out Gloucester’s eyes, and goes on to demand that no one aid him so he can “smell” his way to his destination, Dover. Regan is also interested in Edmund and competes with Goneril for his affection. Regan has the upper hand in this situation however because her husband was killed during the scene when Gloucester was being blinded. Regan is now a widower and has an available and legitimate position ready for Edmund if he chooses her. Goneril on the other hand is not a widower and therefore must carry out a secret affair, a less attractive offer especially for Edmund, who was born out of wedlock and who’s entire life as a second class citizen was caused because of an affair. Regan is eventually poisoned by her sister as part of the competition between them for Edmund’s love. Albany: Albany is the husband to Goneril and is a representation of good in the battle between good and evil. Albany is also the foil to Goneril. At the beginning of the play, Albany does not voice his position or opinion and is described as a coward. As the play develops Albany’s courage develops as well. Albany refuses to take part in the evil that his wife and sister and brother in law do. He stands firm as a defender of justice. Albany becomes more vocal and finally confronts Goneril about her evil actions and intentions. Albany points out that what Goneril is doing is unnatural and is not feminine. This plays into the theme of the order of nature. Albany goes on to explain that Goneril is being unjust to her father, a man that gave her everything that she currently possesses. Later, when war begins, Albany reluctantly participates. Albany explains that he is merely fighting for the sake of defending England. After the war, Albany realizes that his wife and Edmund have planned to kill him and he makes it clear to both Edmund and his wife that he knows. Albany calls Edmund out as another evil character and explains the injustice and problems Edmund has caused because of his unnatural behavior. Albany at the end of the play comments on the order of nature and justice once again explaining that everyone will receive their just dues. Albany is one of the three surviving cast members at the end of the play and is left with Edgar to rule the kingdom. Cornwall: Cornwall is the husband of Regan. Cornwall is a representation of evil in the play as well. When Edmund explains his fictional story to Regan and Cornwall, Cornwall is blind to the blatant lies that Edmund tells and accepts Edmund into his home. Cornwall at the beginning of the play is very deceitful like his wife, and appears to be very rational. However, Cornwall is also very rash as is spotlighted when Cornwall orders Kent to be put into the stocks when Edmund asks. Cornwall does not have the ability to recognize lies and falsehoods, and basically believes everything that Edmund says. Cornwall is also evil because he supports his wife in her plot to kill her father, a man who has enhanced both of their lives with his land and belongings. Cornwall is similar to Regan and sides with evil in the overall battle between good and evil. Cornwall is also ruthless as is evident when he plucks out Gloucester’s eyes. He refuses to listen to the reasoning of his servants and continues to pull out Gloucester’s eyes even after he is warned that it is a bad decision. During this point, many servants turn on Cornwall because they are given insight into Cornwall’s brutal and evil nature. Cornwall eventually dies because a servant stabs him for pulling out Gloucester’s eyes. Cordelia: Cordelia is the daughter of Lear, and the sister to Regan and Goneril. Cordelia marries the Duke of France at the beginning of the play. Cordelia is the voice of reason and is a personification of good in the play. Cordelia refuses to praise her father in the first Act because she believes that false flattery is an irrational measurement of love. Cordelia is banished from the kingdom because of this belief. Cordelia is the voice of reason during this scene. It is obvious that Cordelia respects and loves her father the most out of all the sisters, but she refuses to praise him because she wants to point out the irrational nature of her father, instead of play into his character faults. While Cordelia is banished, characters often describe her as beautiful and loving. Through other character’s description of Cordelia the audience is given insight into the way other cast members and people in society view Cordelia.
Form and Structure: King Lear, by William Shakespeare had 2 plots. The major plot was of King Lear’s character change and the effect that his initial decision in dividing the kingdom had on all those who surrounded him. The subplot was about the power struggle of Edmund, and his plan to reverse roles with his brother to gain respect and inheritance. Both of these plots share a parallel structure in that they both include the theme of blindness and the reversal of roles. The initial conflict in the major plot was caused by Lear’s inability to act in a rational manner. Lear’s decision in dividing the kingdom leads to the major conflict and power struggle between himself and his daughters, Goneril and Regan. This conflict plays into the themes of role reversal and the order of nature, because the daughters are now more powerful than the father which was an unnatural occurrence considering that it was traditionally the father that was the head of the household and therefore more powerful than his offspring. Lear’s initial decision plays into the theme of blindness because he is blind to the consequences that his decision will have. The subplot’s conflict was originated because of Edmund’s thirst for power and desire for a role reversal between himself and Edgar. This is initially caused by Gloucester’s poor treatment of Edmund because he is a bastard. The climax in the play is when Gloucester’s eyes are plucked out because it is a pivotal point in the theme of blindness. This scene is the literal representation of Gloucester and Lear’s blindness towards truth and reality. The resolution of the play is the death of Lear’s family because of his poor decisions, and a nation left to be ruled by Edgar and Albany. The fact that the kingdom is to be ruled by Edgar and Albany is important, because it plays into the theme of good versus evil. Shakespeare is basically stating that good triumphs over evil by leaving two characters that were defenders of truth and justice to lead the new kingdom, one without the evils of the previous because all those who had participated in the chaos have now been killed off or had died. This ending gives hope for the new nation, because the leaders have learned through their experiences not to make the same mistakes as their successors.
Symbols and Motifs: Motif: In King Lear, an important motif was the idea of praise used by Goneril and Regan on their father and on Edmund. At the beginning of the play, the daughters shower their father with praise in order to receive their inheritance and a part of England to rule over. The daughters feign their praises and love of their father merely to get what they want, which plays into the theme of ingratitude. The daughters also praise Edmund at the end of the novel in order to win his affection. The sisters are in competition with each other over who will be able to carry out a relationship with Edmund. The two once again use feigned praise in order to compete with each other and in order to get what they want. Both of these situations the women use any means, even lying to achieve the ends that they desire. The two have no moral code that they abide by and therefore feel no remorse when they do not carry out their word. These situations are motifs because they are reoccurring situations that portray the true character of the women. The situations also play into the theme of reality versus what is perceived because the sisters appear to be loving and honest, but in reality do not mean what they state.

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