King Lear: A Shakespearean Tragedy


There has been many different views on the plays of William
Shakespeare and definitions of what kind of play they were. The two most
popular would be the comedy and the tragedy. King Lear to some people may
be a comedy because they believe that the play has been over exaggerated.
Others would say King Lear was a tragedy because there is so much suffering
and chaos.

What makes a Shakespearean play a comedy or a tragedy? King Lear
would be a tragedy because it meets all the requirements of a tragedy as
defined by Andrew Cecil Bradley. Bradley states that a Shakespearean
tragedy must have to be the story of the hero and that there is exceptional
suffering and calamity slowly being worn in as well as it being contrasted
to happier times. The play also depicts the troubled parts in his life and
eventually his death that is instantaneous caused by the suffering and
calamity. There is the feeling of fear in the play as well, that makes men
see how blind they are not knowing when fortune or something else would be
on them. The hero must be of a high status on the chain and the hero also
possesses a tragic flaw that initiates the tragedy. The fall of the hero
is not felt by him alone but creates a chain reaction which affects
everything below him. There must also be the element of chance or accident
that influences some point in the play.

King Lear meets all of these requirements that has been laid out by
Bradley which is the most logical for a definition of a tragedy as compared
to the definition of a comedy by G. Wilson Knight.

The main character of the play would be King Lear who in terms of
Bradley would be the hero and hold the highest position is the social
chain. Lear out of Pride and anger has banished Cordelia and split the
kingdom in half to the two older sisters, Goneril and Regan. This is
Lear's tragic flaw which prevents him to see the true faces of people
because his pride and anger overrides his judgement. As we see in the
first act, Lear does not listen to Kent's plea to see closer to the true
faces of his daughters. Kent has hurt Lear's pride by disobeying his order
to stay out of his and Cordelia's way when Lear has already warned him,
"The bow is bent and drawn, make from the shaft." Kent still disobeys Lear
and is banished. Because of this flaw, Lear has initiated the tragedy by
disturbing the order in the chain of being by dividing the kingdom,
banishing his best servant and daughter, and giving up his thrown.

Due to this flaw, Lear has given way to the two older daughters to
conspire against him. Lear is finally thrown out of his daughters home and
left with a fool, a servant and a beggar. This is when Lear realizes the
mistake that he has made and suffers the banishment of his two eldest
daughters. Lear is caught in a storm and begins to lose his sanity because
he can not bear the treatment of his two daughters as well as the error he
has made with Cordelia and Kent. Lear also suffers from rest when he is
moving all over the place and the thing that breaks him is the death of his
youngest daughter Cordelia. This suffering can be contrasted with other
happier times like when Lear was still king and when he was not banished by
his two daughters.

The feeling of fear is when Lear is in the storm raging against the
gods,

"I tax not you, you elements, with unkindness. I never gave you kingdom,
called you children, you owe me no subscription.",

telling them to rage harder since he has not done anything for them and
that he didn't deserve what he has received from his two daughters. The
fear is how Lear in a short period of time went from king to just a regular
peasant and from strong and prideful to weak and unconfident. This shows
that men do not hold their own destiny and that even though things may be
great now you can be struck down just as fast as was to Lear.

The fall of Lear is not just the suffering of one man but the
suffering of everyone down the chain. Gloucester loses his status and
eyes, Cordelia and Kent banished, and Albany realizing his wife's true
heart. Everything that happened to these characters are affected by Lear
in one way or another and that if Lear