King Lear: Lear The Tragic Hero


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. " You sir, more knave than
fool, after your master!" ( I, iv, 312)
Lear\'s exceptional suffering and calamity after his realization of his
true character shows the quality of a tragic hero. Due to his flaw, he gave
the two daughters a chance to conspire against him