The dictionary known definition of a “hero” is someone that is very well noted for their acts of courage or nobility of purpose, especially one who has put their life at risk / or even sacrificed it . An example of a type of “hero” in King Lear is without doubt the title character King Lear . King Lear isn’t the type of “hero” we are used to hearing about , instead he is a “tragic hero”.
The way a hero is defined in the dictionary is someone that is very well noted for their acts of courage or nobility of purpose, especially one who has put it’s life at risk or even sacrificed it. Not anybody can be given the recognizable title of a hero . A person with the title of a hero is because they are well suited to have been given it. A hero goes out of their comfort zone to help another thing or person in need . A hero thinks more about others than it does about himself or her . A hero “saves the day “ by making a community safer or by coming to the rescue and helping resolve a problem or situation. Heroes are not only seen in movies or books , there are lot of amazing individuals that really go out there and help when something is in need of a “hero’s helping hand”.
There can be many types of heroes in literacy. The focus on the hero in the play of “King Lear” is a type that fits the one the “hero” is portraying throughout the play . The type of hero shown by King Lear is a “tragic hero” . The requirements for a tragic hero are very different from our original idea of a hero. For a character to be classified as a “tragic hero” the character must have a high status in its society and must have a tragic flaw which starts the tragedy. The fall caused from the flaws of the “tragic hero” causes a chain reaction not only linked to him but that affects everyone around. The “tragic hero “ usually must experience suffering and disaster throughout time. This will cause the chaos in the “tragic hero’s” life and will soon lead up to his death. Following after the “tragic hero’s” death there will be an appearance of a sense of fear and pity that will make men scared to know the truth , and this will prevent them from further knowing when fortune or something else will happen to them .
The hero in King Lear is a “tragic hero “ and this person is the main character King Lear . King Lear has all the characteristics needed in order to be classified as a “tragic hero” . Although there is not really an actual “hero” King Lear shows another part of a hero . A “tragic hero” needs to at some point suffer from emotional tension. An example of this is when King Lear says “ Away let me die.”(ACT 4,scene 6 , pg 49.) when King Lear says this it is him experiencing a strong repressed emotion when he admits to Cordelia that he was wrong to get rid of her. Another part is when King Lear says “Pray do not mock: me i am a very foolish fond old man.” (ACT 4 , scene 7 , pgs. 59-60). King Lear was getting more insight from the misfortunes brought to by Goneril and Regan .
The tragic flaw that a “tragic hero” has is shown in King Lear by all the misfortunes that happen all caused from cause and effect . These misfortunes happened for a reason . They were the outcome of the “tragic hero’s “ actions and behaviors. When King Lear started to commit bad actions his life went from good to bad fortunes. One of the bad fortunes that King Lear had is that Cordelia could not put her love for him in words. By King Lear having the title of a king that definitely game him a feeling of superiority but he starts to lose this sense and goes mad when he gets kicked out from both Regan and Goneril’s castle. King Lear tries to fulfill his love and belonging needs only from his 2 mean daughters , Goneril and Regan but they both deny him. This quote shows that King Lear really felt that when he states: “Let copulation thrive; for Gloucester’s bastard son was kinder to his father than my daughter’s “(ACT 4, scene 6, pgs. 113-114) . Another example of why King Lear is an example of a “tragic character” is when he states: “ I fear i am not in my perfect mind.” (ACT 4, scene 7, pg.63) This clearly shows King Lear is losing his patience for Cordelia because he did not expect her to say nothing. King Lear gives Cordelia a second opportunity to repeat herself before he starts to punish her for being “ungrateful and cruel” . The “ Tragic hero” fall is brought upon himself through his wrong judgement and wickedness. King Lear’s biggest flaw is his blinded judgement , also his lack of confidence did not allow him to achieve a good level of self esteem . These quotes and examples all help show why there is in fact a “ tragic hero” in this play .
King Lear Continuously Possess ‘Mother Issues’
Ioppolo (227) argued that Lear’s complexity, as highlighted by Shakespeare, has demanded readings of psychoanalysis and results in a common consensus that the king is considered the embodiment of the Oedipus complex. King Lear continuously possess ‘mother issues’, which forces him to find a motherly figure within his daughters, however, disappointment prevails as the king is unable to find motherly love in his daughters. Another quote “if thou shouldst not be glad I would divorce me from thy mother’s tomb”, indicates that Lear awarded Regan with her nature (moral), and if there was absence of good nature, she could have been blessed with some other father.
The quote “Hysterica passio! down, thou climbing sorrow! Thy element’s below” called his sorrow hysterical and characterizes decisively it as feminine. In the scene, Lear is unable to rationalize or deny; he is able to only feel an uproar of wounded pride, loss, anger and shame, which he tends to express in a striking image. Ioppolo (189) explored that in King Lear, the mother of Regan, Goneril and Cordelia seems to be missing, which leaves Lear to up-bring his daughters solely. However, the youngest daughter turns out to be a loving and honest woman. Contrarily, the other 2 daughters, have emerged as power-hungry and cheating. It is critical to consider that with a mother, there could have been a positive image of the other 2 daughters. This element indicates the significance of a mother in shaping the personality of children. Adelman (131) indicates that there seem to be present a parallel between Gloucester and Lear, as both of them do not have children. In the play, the word mother has been mentioned two times and in a negative way. One of the quotes from Act II is “O! how this mother swells up toward my heart.” In this statement, the word ‘mother’ indicates a type of sickness that is in the mother’s womb. It also highlights the mother’s suffocation. This element indicates the negative use of word mother by Shakespeare.
This paper indicated the element related to the absence of a mother in the play King Lear. It is concluded that the old age of Lear influences him for regressing into a disposition (infantile), and he craves for love which is satisfied traditionally by a woman (mothering). Lear feels wounded and vulnerable by his daughters, by highlighting sorrow as hysterical. One of the critical points observed includes that the king seems to feel threatened by womanly feelings.
It is further concluded that with a mother, there could have been a positive image of the other two daughters. Certain adverse events could have been avoided due to the presence of a mother in the play.
Compassion In Tragedy: Shakespeare’s Major Theme In King Lear
Albert Schweitzer once said that “The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others.” Compassion is feeling sympathy, being kind, and caring for others. In William Shakespeare’s play King Lear, an important theme is that it’s important to show kindness to others, even in difficult times. Shakespeare demonstrates this theme through King Lear’s conversations with his daughters, especially the youngest, Cordelia, and his conversations with his friends. King Lear follows the story of an aging king and his daughters as he gives up his throne. The majority of the play focuses on Lear’s descent into madness at the cruel hands of his daughters Regan and Goneril, and concludes with their death and Lear’s reconciliation with his other daughter Cordelia. Along the way, Lear’s interactions with his friends and daughters show the audience the power of compassion.
King Lear’s daughters are a primary example of Shakespeare’s demonstration of this theme. Very early in the play, after Lear has divvied his kingdom up between his daughters, his noble advisor Kent attempts to persuade Lear that he’s judged his youngest daughter Cordelia’s love too harshly. “Answer my life my judgement, thy youngest daughter does not love thee least, nor are those empty-hearted whose low sound reverbs no hollowness.” (I, i, ll. 151-153). After the false, flattering words from his daughters Goneril and Regan, Lear’s inability to see that Cordelia’s love was too great to be put into words caused him to lose his daughter and his advisor Kent, who was exiled when his compassion caused Lear to become furious at him. Kent knows his attempt to show the king how to fix his relationship with honesty and compassion will cost him his title, his status and Lear’s trust, yet he does it anyway.
Eventually, Lear tries to mend the rift he’s caused with Cordelia. “Be your tears wet? Yes, faith. I pray, weep not. If you have poison for me, I will drink it. I know you do not love me, for your sisters have, as I do remember, done me wrong. You have some cause; they have not,” King Lear says in Act 4, Scene 7 in lines 69 to 73 as he apologizes to Cordelia when he realizes he was wrong and misjudged her. Cordelia’s response, “No cause, no cause,” (IV, vii, ll. 74) shows her continued love for her father, as is also demonstrated in Act 4, Scene 3, lines 25-30 — “Faith, once or twice she heaved the name of ‘father’ pantingly forth as if it pressed her heart, cried ‘sisters, sisters! Shame of ladies, sisters! Kent, father, sisters! What, i’ th’ storm, i’ th’ night? Let pity not be believed.’ There she shook the holy water from her heavenly eyes, and clamor moistened. Then away she started to deal with grief alone.” Despite being banished by her father, she still loves him and grieves for him. Her love resonates throughout the story and she is the only character to stand by Lear after he has lost everything – his crown, his mind, and his cruel, oldest daughters.
Regan is one of those cruel older daughters, and very early on in the story she shows the audience her cold heart. “…Shut up your doors: he is attended by a desperate train, and what they may to incense him to, being apt to have his ear abused, wisdom bids fear.” (II, iv, ll. 348-351). Her husband Cornwall responds with “Shut up your doors, my lord. ‘Tis a wild night. My Regan counsels well. Come out o’ th’ storm.” (II, iv, ll. 351-353). Not only does Regan force her father out into a dangerous storm, she locks the door behind him as well. Cornwall, and especially Regan, show no kindness to Lear throughout the entire story, even though he is Regan’s father and their former king. The drastic consequences of this lack of kindness towards Lear eventually cause the deaths of both Regan and her husband, as Cornwall is murdered in a duel by Lear’s friend and Regan is poisoned by her jealous sister Goneril. They would never have started fighting unless Lear had driven a wedge between them with the division of the kingdom.
Goneril, Regan’s older sister, also shows no compassion for Lear. Gloucester, a friend of Lear’s, tells Regan that “I would not see thy cruel nails pluck out Lear’s poor old eyes, nor thy fierce sister in his anointed flesh stick boarish fangs.” (III, vii, ll. 55-57). Regan’s nails are described as “cruel”, and Goneril’s “boarish fangs” depict her as a savage animal who shows mercy and kindness to no one, not even her own father.
Regan and Goneril were each given half the kingdom by their father, and ruled over it for a short period of time; however, at the end of the play, Goneril poisons Regan and kills herself. This commentary by Shakespeare shows the audience that while cruelty and anger may initially get you farther than compassion, kindness will be better for everyone in the end.
In addition to his daughters, Lear’s friends are among the other characters who demonstrate Shakespeare’s theme of compassion throughout the story. In Act 3, Scene 4, Lear, whose mind is quickly deteriorating, asks Kent, “Wilt break my heart?” Kent, who remained undyingly faithful to the aging king, replied with “I had rather break my own.” (III, iv, ll. 4-5). The dedication, loyalty and empathy towards Lear that Kent demonstrates through the entire play show the audience the strength of Kent’s love towards the king, even after the king banishes him early in the story. The adoration that Kent has for King Lear reveals his strength of character and loyalty to the king, as not many people could continue to love and help someone after they have been mistreated by that someone the way Kent was.
Just a bit later in Act 3, Scene 4 during lines 23 to 27, Lear shows his own compassion for one of the first times in the play. “Prithee, go in thyself. Seek thine own ease. This tempest will not give me leave to ponder on things that would hurt me more. But I’ll go in. (To Fool) In, boy. Go first. You houseless poverty- nay, get thee in. I’ll pray, and then I’ll sleep.” His telling the Fool to go in ahead of him and make himself comfortable shows how he is putting his dear servant before himself, even in the depths of his madness. His treating a servant better than himself, a former king, shows how much empathy Lear has gained throughout the story.
Several scenes earlier in the story, Lear realizes how uninformed he was when he says “Poor naked wretches, whereso’er you are, that bide the pelting of this pitiless storm, how shall your houseless heads and unfed sides, your loop’d and window’d raggedness, defend you from seasons such as these? O, I have ta’en too little care of this! Take physic, pomp; expose thyself to feel what wretches feel, that thou mayst shake the superflux to them, and show the heavens more just.” (3.2.65-71). He’s feeling for the first time what it’s like to struggle and be poor, and he wishes, now that he knows what the poorest people go through, that he had done something more about it while he was king. It took losing his power and his mind to make Lear realize that he could have done something to help these people, which is Shakespeare’s way of telling his audience that they should always try to better others’ lives, even if they don’t fully understand what others are going through until they experience it themselves.
The theme of “It’s important to show kindness to others, even in difficult times” is heavily implied throughout Shakespeare’s King Lear, demonstrating why caring about other people is valuable. His quiet, loving daughter Cordelia’s love is explained by Kent after Lear banishes her, and Lear later apologizes to Cordelia, mending their relationship after a period of argument. His other daughters, Regan and Goneril, end up dead after they show no kindness to their father. Even Lear’s own compassion was demonstrated through his sympathy for the Fool in his wild madness. Kent, also, showed great kindness to Lear despite Lear’s hatred of him. Throughout the story, Shakespeare demonstrates that we should always try to be kind even when bad things may be happening in your life. After all, according to Albert Schweitzer, the meaning of life is to show compassion to others.