‘Shakespeare’s King Lear shows characters reacting in very different ways to evil and suffering’. Discuss.
In King Lear we meet several different characters who respond and react differently to evil and suffering. In King Lear, both suffering and evil is intense, violent and relentless. Many of the characters are driven beyond the limits of endurance, reflected in the imagery of the play. We meet characters who experience both evil and suffering and others like Cordelia, Edgar and Kent who although are misjudged, remain loyal. On the contrary to these, we find Goneril, Regan and Edmund who are pure evil and with excessive hunger for power.
If we take King Lear as our subject, we can see that he, as the “Idle old man”, is gullible and therefore is credulous to his two “pelican daughters’” “I love you” test. All the suffering that Lear encounters is his own fault. He misjudges his “fair” Cordelia as he didn’t really know her. His extreme rashness later on brings him directly to the evil of his daughters and the suffering that comes about. Since Goneril and Regan’s declaration of their love for their father was false, Lear soon started to encounter suffering, ending up to be banished from his own kingdom. In front of his two children Lear seems powerless as they banish him. It is ironic that from occupying a king’s place, he is now living off like a “poor” “despis’d old man”. At the beginning he rejects to believe his reality, but then when he realises of the true self of his ferocious daughters, he is sorry for the way he treated his young loved one, Cordelia. This shows that although being mad, he still has at his possession some sort of consciousness.
Shakespeare’s tragedy “King Lear” discusses many notions the most important being the relationship between good and evil and the constant battle of the opposites; their dependency and the origin of wickedness, as well as the fact that something good can never “destroy” anything all play a key role in the question of if it is evil that destroys itself. The following essay will deliberate these ...
In parallel with Lear, we find Gloucester, who is easily deceived by his “bastard” son Edmund. Both Lear and Gloucester are subjected to evil due to their lack of knowledge regarding their offspring. They were so much into their work that they lost count of those people who actually cared for them. This caused their blindness which later on exposed them to their harsh misery. As Lear does to Cordelia, which he banishes for her “nothing”, Gloucester is gullible to the letter his “whoreson” shows him. He, without confronting his other son Edgar, rashly disowns him. So, Gloucester was deceived by the evil in his son Edmund. If he really knew his sons, this wouldn’t have happened and he wouldn’t have been a subject to his son’s wickedness. But the actual suffering of Gloucester in this play is due to his loyalty to Lear. This loyalty turns Gloucester into a blind man – “plucked out eyes”, the blindness which is caused by the evil characters themselves.
Cordelia, Kent and Edgar are three characters who are misjudged for what they really are and thus are forced to experience suffering. All of the three have a relatively reasonable personality. Cordelia is banished for her “nothing”, she is sent away for being honest and refusing to flatter her father the way her monstrous sisters did. Without any doubts, it is both a suffering and an insult to be banished by your own father who failed to see the love and affection of his daughter towards him. On the contrary of what most of us would have done, Cordelia never stopped loving her father as she frequently cried for him. She forgets the pain she experienced and still, with the help of the King of France, wanted to save her father from his misery.
The same goes for the “legitimate Edgar”. Edgar’s suffering in the play goes through his disguised self as “poor Tom O’ Bedlam”. He leaves his personality and starts to live like an insane poor fellow. Although as his brother told him and as his father truly did, was a subject to murder under his father’s order, he still tried to help his old man and showed no sign of evil towards him. He was misjudged for what he wasn’t, for what he didn’t do but he didn’t create hatred in his heart directed to his father, no, he wanted to help. He felt sorry for his father’s blinding condition. If Edgar grew to hate his father, he wouldn’t have tried to be sympathetic to his new condition.
Born in 1809, Edgar Alan Poe is considered by many critics and fans of literature to be one of the greatest writers of all time. He was born into a strict religious environment. His father constantly abused him. His family was considered very dysfunctional, which is part of the reason his stories always have an evil tint to them (Basuray). Almost every one of Poe's stories tend to have a dark and ...
Kent a “very honest-hearted fellow” and an “honourable friend” also suffers due to his effort to warn Lear not be rash, he ends up being banished from the country. Despite all this, Kent still remained loyal towards the king and in order to still offer him his service, he disguises himself. So, we can see that some characters, instead of turning towards the subject of their suffering that of which they were misjudged or discriminated for, they ended up by repaying the subject positively. This shows their graciousness and loyalty which overcomes their pains.
On the contrary to these we find pure examples of evil. Goneril, Regan, Edmund and to a certain extent Cornwall are all a paradigm of someone who are hungry for power and will do anything in order to acquire it. Thanks to the gullible people around them, they succeed in exposing their true self. We can see the heartlessness of all of them as they see their father suffering, the suffering which themselves chose to create. For them the paternal bond had no meaning as the only thing that mattered was authority. Both Goneril and Regan had the guts to send away their father while Edmund actually told lies on his father causing him his blindness.
Without any doubts, these examples outline the reaction of how these characters respond to suffering and evil. Each one of them reacts in a way that reflects its personal character which is exposed during the play.