Wednesday, March 21, 2012

major character analysis of king lear


King Lear

  • values appearances above reality.  The only honest daughter, Cordelia, is thrown out due to her plain and honest love of her father. "By all the operation of the orbs/ From whom we do exist and cease to be;/ Here I disclaim all my paternal care,/ Propinquity and property of blood,/ And as a stranger to my heart and me/ Hold thee, from this, for ever." (Act 1, Scene 1, lines 111-116)
  • values a flattering public display of love over real love.  His test of his daughter does not use the question of “which of you doth love us most,” but rather, “which of you shall we say doth love us most?” (Act 1, Scene1. Line 49).
  • blind to the truth, but Cordelia is already his favorite daughter at the beginning of the play, so presumably he knows that she loves him the most. “I love your Majesty according to my bond, no more nor less” (Act 1, Scene 1, Line 91)
  • realizes his weakness and insignificance in comparison to the awesome forces of the natural world.  He says he is "more sinned against than sinning" (Act 3, Scene 2, Line 60).
  • becomes a humble and caring individual. He refers to himself as "a very foolish old man" .(Act 4, Scene 7, Line 60)
  • comes to cherish Cordelia above everything else and to place his own love for Cordelia above every other consideration, to the point that he would rather live in prison with her than rule as a king again.  “no, no, no.  Come, let’s away to prison.  We two alone will sing like birds in th’ cage.  So we’ll live, and sing and tell old tales, and laugh at gilded butterflies, and hear poor rogues talk of court news.”  (Act 5, Scene 3, Line 8)
  • She represents devotion, kindness, beauty, and honesty. 
  • loves his father so much that she cannot describe it with words. She cannot answer her father's question.  Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave. My heart into my mouth. (Act 1. Scene 1. Line 90–91).
  • always being an obedient daughter and follow her father's order even when her father disowns her.  “the jewels of our father, with washed eyes Cordelia leaves you.”
  • Edmund is the most complex and sympathetic. He is a consummate schemer, a Machiavellian character eager to seize any opportunity and willing to do anything to achieve his goals. 
  • However, his ambition is interesting insofar as it reflects not only a thirst for land and power but also a desire for the recognition denied to him by his status as a bastard. His serial treachery is not merely self-interested; it is a conscious rebellion against the social order that has denied him the same status as Gloucester’s legitimate son, Edgar. “Now, gods, stand up for bastards,” Edmund commands, but in fact he depends not on divine aid but on his own initiative (1.2.22).
  • He is the ultimate self-made man
  • he is such a cold and capable villain that it is entertaining to watch him work, much as the audience can appreciate the clever wickedness of Iago in Othello
  • Only at the close of the play does Edmund show a flicker of weakness. Mortally wounded, he sees that both Goneril and Regan have died for him, and whispers, “Yet Edmund was beloved” (5.3.238). After this ambiguous statement, he seems to repent of his villainy and admits to having ordered Cordelia’s death. His peculiar change of heart, rare among Shakespearean villains, is enough to make the audience wonder, amid the carnage, whether Edmund’s villainy sprang not from some innate cruelty but simply from a thwarted, misdirected desire for the familial love that he witnessed around him.
Goneril and Regan
  • There is little good to be said for Lear’s older daughters, who are largely indistinguishable in their villainy and spite.
  • are clever—or at least clever enough to flatter their father in the play’s opening scene—and, early in the play, their bad behavior toward Lear seems matched by his own pride and temper.  Goneril, the oldest, saying “Sir, I love you beyond what can be valued, no less than life.” Regan, the middle daughter, saying “I find my sister comes too short, for I find I am alone made happy in your dear Highness’ love.”
  • betray their father. Goneril says, “here do you keep a hundred knights and squires, men so disordered, so debauched and bold, that this our court, infected with their manners, shows like a riotous inn.” Regan says to her father  “O sir, you are old.  You should be ruled and led by the discretion of someone whose condition is better than yourself.  Say you have wrong her.”
  • cruel and heartless.  they viciously put out Gloucester’s eyes in Act 3.  Regan says to hang him.Goneril says: "Pluck out his eyes" (scene 7, line 5).
  • Goneril and Regan are, in a sense, personifications of evil—they have no conscience, only appetite.
  • It is this greedy ambition that enables them to crush all opposition and make themselves mistresses of Britain.
  • Ultimately, however, this same appetite brings about their undoing. Their desire for power is satisfied, but both harbor sexual desire for Edmund, which destroys their alliance and eventually leads them to destroy each other. Evil, the play suggests, inevitably turns in on itself.
  • A nobleman of the same rank as Gloucester.
  •  loyal to King Lear. Kent spends most of the play. “I will not sleep, my lord, till I have delivered your letter.” ( Act 1, Scene 1)
  • disguised as a peasant, calling himself “Caius,” so that he can continue to serve Lear even after Lear banishes him. 
  • He is extremely loyal, but he gets himself into trouble throughout the play by being extremely blunt and outspoken. "See better, Lear; and let me still remain / The true blank of thine eye" (Act I. Scene 1, Line157-58)

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