A tragic hero fits many moulds of characters. On the other hand a character fits many moulds of a tragic hero. King Lear’s flaws make him human, if the protagonist were a flawless hero, there would be no tragedy. Aristotle was a huge influence on the knowledge of what defines a tragic character. He lived in the 4th century BC and grew to be very significant as a thinker. Many writers such as Shakespeare based their own tragic hero’s on his ideas. I’m going to compare some of his definitions to the character of King Lear to expose what makes Lear the tragic hero.
In the words of Aristotle “The tragic hero is a character of noble stature and has greatness.” Before watching the play, you can already see in the eyes of Aristotle that King Lear is going to be the tragic hero due to his status. By beginning the play with King Lear distributing his power and wealth to his daughters, Shakespeare seems to be taking away the character’s power already. It could also be argued that this scene is foreshadowing the death of King Lear with the breakdown of his greatness. This is supported by the line, “while we unburthen’d crawl toward death,” which could also be described as dramatic irony, because the character is unknowingly facing his own death. Alongside this, by naming the play after the main character Shakespeare makes certain that the death itself is made more tragic, because it is usually not normal for the main character to die. At the same time by knowing that King Lear is the main character, we as an audience focus more of our attention on understanding the character, making his death more tragic.
To What Extent Does Macbeth Fulfil The Demands of A Tragic Hero To be able to answer this question fully and profoundly we must first be able to accurately understand and be able to describe what is meant by a tragic hero. The classical idea of a tragic hero was first introduced by the ancient Greeks. The earliest known example of this was from Aristotle's 'Poeticus'. There are many essential ...
Act 1 begins with King Lear asking his daughters to express how much they love him, “Which of you shall we say doth love us most?” The word “us” used in this quotation implies that King Lear wants to know which of his daughters loves the kingdom more, rather than just him. This could show that King Lear is not in fact a person of his own, but just a symbol of the kingdom he owns. A kingdom is full of complexity and hidden depths, which would also make King Lear the same. We all in ourselves have a slight lack of self esteem, and so by king Lear needing this reassurance we can identify with the tragic hero. This could be supportive of what Aristotle says “Though the tragic hero is pre-eminently great, he/she is not perfect. Otherwise the rest of us mere mortals would be unable to identify with the tragic hero.” King Lear is an old man and by demanding for his daughter to express how much they love him shows he needs to be reassured of his own importance. This proves complexity because tragic heroes are meant to be ‘great individuals’ and so by King Lear questioning his own greatness makes him complex.
However it could be argued that it is the actions of the surrounding characters that make King Lear complex. Whilst expressing their love for the king, his daughters Regan and Goneral make speeches filled with empty words which are obviously nothing but flattery, for a share of his kingdom. Cordelia is not comfortable with the situation saying “I love your Majesty according to my bond; no more nor less.” Consequently, Lear is angered by Cordelia’s response and removes his “Propinquity and property of blood”. The language that is used in this piece highlights the complexity of the relationship between King Lear and his daughter. For example, words such as ‘property’ and ‘majesty’ removes any heart felt emotions from the relationship. If it hadn’t been for Cordelia and her involvement King Lear could be viewed as a less complex man. Aristotle claimed that “the tragedy is usually triggered by some error of judgment,” and it could be said that because of King Lear’s response to Cordelia here, it is almost like he has killed himself before he is even dead and his world appears to fall apart from here.
In the story The Horse Dealers Daughter, author D.H. Lawrence represents a type of love metaphor that is truly an example of how powerful love can be. His two main characters, Dr. Jack Fergusson and Mabel Pervin undergo such a dramatic experience, its almost impossible not to pick up his story and read it for a second time. But can something this imaginative and so farfetched actually happen? ...
King Lear’s complexity grows with his contrasting emotions. Act one is a mixture of extremes, ranging from fear, as he needs reassurance of love from his daughters, to anger, that he has for Cordelia as she refuses to express this, “Mend your speech a little, lest you may mar your fortunes.” This shows Lear coming out as a father figure (though not a very good one), as he is teaching Cordelia to be dishonest to get where she wants to in life. This view shows yet another side to King Lear and makes us wonder what he did to become King. Lear’s changing emotions continue as he shows spite by abandoning his youngest daughter as a result of her honesty, “Here I disclaim all my paternal care.” In going from one emotion to the other, Shakespeare is allowing the audience to come to the conclusion that King Lear is a complex character, because we are always not sure how he will respond to a situation.
After comparing the views of Aristotle and the character of King Lear I have come to the conclusion that Lear is a complex tragic character. King Lear matches up to Aristotle’s definitions, such as being in the position of power, having imperfections and also having a tragic death. However, his complexities arrive from the surrounding characters such as his Cordelia. King Lear’s judgment and actions towards his favorite daughter causes his world to fall apart. Therefore if it hadn’t been for Cordelia refusing to express her love would the audience have seen this complex tragic ending of King Lear? He is also complex from proof of his ever changing emotions. Because of this, characters around him are not sure of how to deal with him and we as an audience don’t know how to perceive him. By gathering all of this evidence together King Lear fits in with Aristotle’s definition of a tragic hero, yet still has the complexity of a Shakespearian character.