King Lear Essay

The definition of tragedy in the Oxford dictionary is, "drama of elevated theme and
diction and with unhappy ending; sad event, serious accident, calamity." However, the
application of this terminology in Shakespearean Tragedy is more expressive. Tragedy
does not only mean death or calamity, but in fact, it refers to a series of steps which leads
to the downfall of the tragic hero and eventually to his tragic death. Lear, the main
character in King Lear was affirmed as the tragic hero because the play meets all the
requirements of a tragedy. In order for a character to be qualified as a tragic hero, he
must be in a high status on the social chain and the hero also possesses a tragic flaw which
initiates the tragedy. The fall of the hero is not felt by him alone but creates a chain
reaction which affects everyone around him. Besides, the hero must experience suffering
and calamity slowly which would contrast his happier times. The suffering and calamity
instantaneously caused chaos in his life and eventually leads to his death. Finally, the sense
of fear and pity to the tragic hero must appear in the play as well. This makes men scared
of blindness to truths which prevents them from knowing when fortune or something else
would happen on them.
Lear, the king of England would be the tragic hero because he held the highest
position in the social chain at the very beginning of the play. His social position gave him
pride as he remarked himself as "Jupiter" and "Apollo". Lear out of pride and anger has
banished Cordelia and Kent and divided his Kingdom in halves to Goneril and Regan.
Lear\'s hamartia which is his obstinate pride and anger overrides his judgment, thus,
prevents him to see the true faces of people. As in Act One, although Cordelia said
"nothing", she really means everything she loves to his father. However, Lear only
believed in the beautiful words said by Regan and Goneril. Although Kent, his loyal
advisor begged Lear to see closer to the true faces of his daughters, he ignored him and
became even more angry because Kent hurt Lear\'s pride by disobeying his order to stay
out of his and Cordelia\'s way Lear had already warned him, "The bow is bent and drawn,
make from the shaft." ( I, I, 145). Kent still disobeys Lear and hurts his pride further as
he said, "Now by Apollo, King, thos swearest thy gods in vain.". Finally, Kent is
banished. Because of the flaw of pride, Lear has initiated the tragedy by perturbing the
order in the chain of being as he gives up his thrown, divides the kingdom and banishes his
loyalist servant and loveliest daughter.
The downfall of Lear is not just the suffering of him alone but the suffering of
everyone down the chain of being. For instance, Lear\'s pride and anger caused Cordelia
and Kent to be banished, and Gloucester loses his position and eyes. Everything that
happened to these characters are in a chain of reaction and affected by Lear\'s tragic flaw.
If Lear did not lack of personal insight and if he did not have such an obstinate pride, he
would not have banished Cordelia and Kent, then Goneril and Regan would not be able to
conspire against Lear. Without the plot of Goneril and Regan, Gloucester would not have
been betrayed by Edmund and lose his eyes and status due to the charge of treason.
Moreover, the chain of reaction was continuous until the lowest person in the society is
affected; the fool, which is the entertainer, was kicked out into the storm with Lear by
Goneril because he was smart enough to tell the truth of Lear\'s blindness.
" Why, after I have cut the egg I\' the middle and eat
up the meat, the two crowns of the egg. When thou
clovest thy crown I\' the middle and gavest away both parts,
thou borest thine ass on thy back o\'er the dirt. Thou hadst
little wit in thy bals crown when thou gavest thy golden one
away." ( Fool, I, iv, 155-160)

Because Goneril realized the wit of the fool who could see through the nature clearly, she
kicked him out together with Lear. "