King Lear is a tragic play by William Shakespeare. The title character, King Lear, is a King who makes a fatal mistake when he decides to divide his kingdom between his three daughters. This leads to chaos and tragedy, as Lear’s daughters turn against him and fight for control of the kingdom. In the end, Lear is left alone and penniless,blinded by rage and grief.
Despite his many flaws, it is clear that King Lear is more sinned against than sinning. He is betrayed by those closest to him and suffers greatly as a result. While he does make some choices that lead to his downfall, it is ultimately the actions of others that cause his ruin. King Lear is a tragic figure who evokes sympathy from the audience, even as we watch him fall from grace.
In his later years, a king is supposed to have all he needs without having to worry about anything. King Lear, on the other hand, moaned pitifully in Act 3, Scene 2: “I am a man / More sinned against than sinning.” Despite Lear’s tragic blunder in the opening scene of the play in dividing up his kingdom and exiling his two dearest people, the sins committed by his two other ungrateful daughters are far worse than his own transgressions.
King Lear is not a villain, but a victim. King Lear’s tragic flaw is his lack of wisdom and understanding, which leads him to make the fatal mistake of giving up his kingdom and exiling his daughter Cordelia.
King Lear is an old man who has ruled for many years. He decides to step down from the throne and divide his kingdom among his three daughters, Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia. He tells each daughter to express her love for him, with the promise that the one who loves him the most will get the largest share of the kingdom. Goneril and Regan both give false declarations of love, while Cordelia speaks truthfully but without flattery. As a result, Lear banishes Cordelia and gives her share of the kingdom to Goneril and Regan.
Lear soon discovers that his two eldest daughters are ungrateful and cruel. They take away his knights, servants, and attending gentlemen, leaving him with only a handful of followers. In addition, they refuse to let Lear have his usual number of hundred knights to attend him. King Lear is reduced to begging for shelter and food from those who once served him. He finally takes refuge in a stormy night on a heath, where he meets the Bedlam beggar Poor Tom (AKA Edgar in disguise).
When Lear divided his realm, he bestowed everything to his two daughters on the condition that he would keep his title as King, retain his entourage, and stay with each daughter for a certain length of time. Goneril is irritated with her father’s impulsive temperament and decides not to put up with him, ordering Oswald and all other servants to irritate Lear in order to rid herself of him: “Put on whatever weary carelessness you like. You and your companions may do so. I’d want it raised for discussion.”
King Lear is a tragic play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1603 and 1606. It depicts the gradual descent into madness of the title character, after he disposes of his kingdom giving bequests to two of his three daughters egged on by their continual flattery, bringing tragic consequences for all. Derived from the legend of Leir of Britain, a mythological pre-Roman Celtic king, the play has been widely adapted to film, television, opera, and other media.
The first quarto (Q1) was published in 1608; Q2 followed in 1619; and later editions appeared in 1623 (Q3) and 1664 (Q4). Contemporary references suggest that Shakespeare had finished writing King Lear by 1605. How close this date is to the play’s original composition is unknown, but many scholars accept 1594–95 or thereabouts as a terminus post quem (latest possible date) for King Lear. Some recent scholarship has argued for an earlier date, such as 1588–89.
The play was entered into the Register of the Stationers Company on 26 February 1607 by Andrew Wise, and was first published in print by Thomas Walkley. Q1 appeared later that year; it is assumed that because of its relatively poor quality, Shakespeare must have prepared a second edition (Q2), which was published in 1619 by Nicholas Okes.
King Lear was not popular on stage during Shakespeare’s lifetime; it was revived by Colley Cibber in 1703. David Garrick’s successful production in 1769 heightened interest, but it did not achieve widespread popularity until the middle of the nineteenth century.
A number of film and television adaptations have been made. The first was King Lear of the Mountains (1911), a five-minute short silent film starring James O’Neill, the father of Eugène O’Neill. King Lear was adapted for Russian television in 1971, with a score by Dmitri Shostakovich. A Soviet screen adaptation directed by Grigori Kozintsev and Sergei Yutkevich was released in 1970. King Lear was adapted by Granada Television for a 1983 miniseries starring Laurence Olivier, and another adaptation starred Ian Holm and ran on BBC Television in 1998.
Goneril’s behavior depicts her nastiness and vengefulness, as she wanted to make Lear suffer whatever she was forced to endure. In Act 1, Scene 4, Goneril says of Lear’s reckless behavior and fluctuating moods: “…” (I, iii, 217-219) It is considered disgraceful for a kid to disobey his parents.
This was first seen when Lear asked his daughters to tell him how much they love him, and his youngest daughter, Cordelia, refused to do so. As a result, King Lear banishes her from the kingdom. King Lear’s tragic flaw is his lack of insight which causes him to make hasty decisions that bring about his downfall.
Oswald also demonstrates contempt towards Lear when he speaks to Goneril in Act 2, Scene 4. Oswald says: “Madam, I swear I use no art at all. That he is mad, ‘tis true: ‘tis true ‘tis pity; And pity ‘tis ‘tis true—a foolish figure; But farewell it for I will use no art. Mad let us grant him then: and now remains That we find out the cause of this effect, Or rather say, the cause of this defect, For this effect defective comes by cause…” (II, iv, 33-39) Oswald is admitting that Lear is mad, but he does not want to show any sympathy for his master as he is tired of putting up with Lear’s antics.
The Duke of Albany also shows his lack of concern for Lear in Act 4, Scene 2. Albany says: “I have been your daughter’s dutiful husband ever since her marriage; time and opportunity have been mine enemies…” (IV, ii, 9-12). Albany is saying that he has been a good husband to Goneril even though she does not deserve it, and he blames Lear for the problems in their marriage. Albany is more concerned about his own happiness than he is about Lear’s wellbeing.
Edgar also demonstrates his lack of respect for Lear in Act 5, Scene 3. Edgar says: “…I cannot daub it further. Men must endure Their going hence even as their coming hither; Ripeness is all: Come on.” (V, iii, 25-28) Edgar is telling Lear that he has done enough to help him, and now it is time for Lear to accept his fate and move on. Edgar is tired of helping Lear and does not want to be bothered with him anymore.
The Lear here is not the King that we see at the beginning of the play. He is a man who has been stripped of his power and forced to confront his own mortality. He is no longer able to command the respect of his daughters or his knights. In this respect, King Lear is more sinned against than sinning.
While it is true that King Lear is responsible for some of the tragedy that unfolds in the play, it is also clear that he is not entirely at fault. There are many factors beyond his control that contribute to the downfall of both himself and his kingdom. King Lear is a tragic figure not because he deserves to be punished but because he suffers greatly despite being essentially a good man. In the end, King Lear is more sinned against than sinning.