King Lear is one of the most famous tragedies of William Shakespeare. The tragedy was written between 1605 and 1606 and was first published in 1608. King Lear was not a fully fictional character whereas William Shakespeare borrowed it from the medieval legends and chronicles. Like any other literary work of Shakespeare, King Lear is a deep tragedy that touches upon many social problems. Many critics and psychologists have tried to analyze this work attentively because every character is complex and interesting for study. King Lear has been on stage for more than 400 years and its popularity has not declined. The most prominent actors dream to play King Lear in order to reveal this complex character to the audience. Moreover, there are many screen versions of the tragedy. This fact demonstrates that the works of William Shakespeare are immortal.
The place of action is Britain. The time of action is approximately 9th century BC. The plot of the tragedy is built around the legendary King Lear who decided to retire and give his power to his daughters. He had three daughters: Goneril, Regan and Cordelia among whom he wanted to divide his kingdom. However, he chose an extraordinary way to define the share of his lands that will be given to every daughter. The king said that the share would depend on the level of love the daughter expresses towards him. Thus, Gonerial and Regan said that they loved their father enormously. In fact, they were sly and smart because they lied to receive as much as possible from their stupid old father. Cordelia did not say anything because she could not describe her love towards the king with words. King Lear was angry with her and divided the kingdom between the first two daughters. However, very soon, he understood that he had made a mistake. Goneril and Regan treat their father negatively and expel him from the kingdom. The plot is improved with another story about the Earl of Gloucester and his sons – Edmund (his illegitimate son) and Edgar. Edmund was angry with his status and decided to get rid of his brother and father to become an earl. There is a conflict between the sisters. Cordelia wants to overthrow her nasty sisters and gathers the army. Unfortunately, Cordelia, Lear and the Earl of Gloucester are seized. Goneril, Regan and Edmund want to kill the captured. All major characters except of Edgar die.
Let us analyze several characters of this tragedy. The main character Lear is supposed to be negative. He enjoyed flattery and sweet words about his personality. He did not pay attention to the actual attitude of people towards him. Although he felt that Cordelia loved him most of all, he wanted to hear her say that. Thus, he wanted to satisfy his pride and self-respect. In fact, Lear was punished by his evil daughters who cheated him saying that they loved him. Of course, it is possible to say that Lear changed in the end. He understood that Cordelia was better than Goneril and Regan. He even carried the body of his daughter and died in grief.
Cordelia is believed to be a completely positive character. She loved her father and was not angry with him even when he deprived her of her share. Moreover, she decided to struggle against her evil sisters to restore order in the kingdom. Goneril and Regan were enemies and wanted kill each other. Therefore, their kingdom was close to collapse. The death of Cordelia makes King Lear even more tragic because she is the favorite character for the audience.
Goneril and Regan are the evil characters who cheated their father and gained much property. On the other hand, their attitude toward Lear was correct. A bad person should be treated in the same way. Secondly, both sisters were not friends. They wanted to kill each other because of love. Edmund was attractive to both of them.
Edmund is one of the deepest characters. This villain is very controversial. His negative behavior is based on his social status. This man was a bastard or illegitimate son of the Earl of Gloucester. Bastards were treated negatively at that time and this social pressure corrupted his soul. He wanted to prove to the society that he is strong and worthy. It was a rebellion. He demonstrated his positive features before his death when he tried to prevent the death of Lear and Cordelia.
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