King Lear: Study Guide | Literaturexpres
1. Question: Discuss the theme of blindness as both physical and emotional in King Lear.
Blindness is a theme that is seen in numerous characters throughout the play “King Lear“, including Lear himself as well as Gloucester and Albany. Visual deficiency is usually characterized as blindness, but Shakespeare has shown us that emotional or psychological blindness is the same as visual deficiency.
It can be argued that King Lear’s blindness is the direct reason behind his entire downfall and tragic death. Lear is the king of Britain and therefore has a lot of power and wealth. As king, it is his task to discern between good and evil but his lack of sight makes him unable to do that. In Act I, Scene I, Lear’s youngest and the most adored daughter Cordelia adopts an alternate strategy. She clarifies that she can never put the genuine profundity of her adoration for her dad into words. Lear doesn’t get what she is attempting to say, and angrily, Lear abrogates Cordelia from his sight and kingdom. Thus, Lear has been emotionally blinded by Cordelia’s refusal to confess her love for him. When Lear’s faithful servant Kent tries to tell him to ‘See better’ meaning that he needs to open his eyes to the mistake he is about to make, but stupidly Lear also banishes his most trusty companion. Lear later regrets this as his other two daughters betray him. Lear is also blind because he is unable to see that his servant Kent serves him in disguise. When everything starts going wrong and Lear is stuck outside in the storm he has hit his lowest point.
“Doth any here know me? This is not Lear:
Doth Lear walk thus? speak thus? Where are his eyes?”
Here Lear can no longer recognize himself. He now knows that he is not the strongest ruler in Britain. Thus, Lear’s blindness drives him crazy.
Gloucester is one of Lear’s noblemen whose situation is remarkably like Lear. Gloucester has a loyal son, Edgar, and a treacherous son, Edmund. Edmund cheats Gloucester with a forged letter and makes him think that Edgar plans to usurp his estate. Edmund arranges a fake attack on him by Edgar, for which Gloucester disinherits Edgar and proclaims him an outlaw. After that Edgar adopts false madness and hides in the countryside to save his life and to help his father and Lear. In this way, Gloucester’s blindness denies him the ability to see the truth in either of his two sons.
But when Gloucester understands his mistake, he tries to help Lear, but Regan and her cruel husband Cornwall catch him. And Gloucester has been blinded by Regan and Cornwall. In this way, the suffering of Gloucester gets started like King Lear. Gloucester regretfully says:
Might I but live to see thee in my touch,
I’d say I had eyes again!”
In these lines, he states that he could not see clearly when he had eyes. He says that having eyes made him spoiled and now that they are gone it is somewhat advantageous for now since he knows the truth.
Albany is yet another character who is blinded by the truth. In his case, he is not only blind to Goneril’s mean and greedy ways, but he is also completely unaware of her plans to kill him. On top of her evil acts, Goneril is unfaithful to Albany, he is also unaware of this. Luckily for him, his blindness doesn’t cost him his life, unlike Lear and Gloucester. Edgar helps Albany see the evil in Goneril by showing him Goneril’s heartless plans to kill Albany. Albany finally realizes that his wife is not a good person and he must stand up to her. Albany says;
“O Goneril,/ You are not worth the dust which the rude wind /Blows in your face!”
Once Albany sees the true Goneril, he is free from her evil ways. He survives his period of blindness and moves on to become the ruler of Lear’s former kingdom.
Throughout King Lear, blindness is a reoccurring theme. The characters’ inability to see the truth inhibits them from making rightful decisions. The two father figures, Lear and Gloucester, have similar fates due to their blindness.
2. Question: The fool is wiser than the king in King Lear. Justify. Or, Lear’s Fool had wisdom in disguise. Elucidate. Or. Critically comment on the character and the role of the Fool in Shakespeare’s King Lear.
The Fool is one of the most important characters of the tragedy. To a modern audience, the Fool seems to be an outlandish kind of person. But the figure of the Fool was familiar to Shakespeare’s original audience. To Shakespeare, Fool is not a foolish character, he possesses some qualities, which make him wise to some extent. In King Lear, he should not be considered merely as a sloped but also a wise person.
A careful study of the plot reveals that among all Shakespeare’s fools, Lear’s Fool is the most intelligent who acts primarily as the conscience of the old king. It will be noted throughout that the Fool makes remarks that without the best hesitation, no one else would have dared to make any comment in the presence of the tempestuous king. In his very first appearance in Act one – Scene IV, the Fool assumes the role of mild admonisher and tries to convince Lear through his jesting how unwise it was on his part to abdicate the throne and divide his kingdom between his two daughters. Like the blind prophet Teiresias in Sophocles’ “King Oedipus”, the Fool is also the embroilment of wisdom. His sage counsels come from his lip through his fooling, revealing the most touching loyalty and affection for his master.
Importance in Lear’s character development
It seems hardly possible that Lear’s character should be properly developed without the Fool. He serves as a common exponent of all the characters like the mirror in which their finest and deepest lineaments are reflected. And that is why the character of the King is starkly dependent on his Fool.
Exposer of truth through humor
As the Fool represents truth in the guise of humor, he cannot be brought forward until the rupture with the moral law has taken place. In his grief of Cordelia’s banishment, the Fool has almost forgotten his part, and this affords us a pledge that under the veil of humor, the deepest earnestness is concealed. He touches on the fault of the King regarding the fact that the injury was done not because of love but of scorn. Hence, the Fool makes the folly of the King in his humor: the harmless words that he throws to expose a deep and penetrating significance. When immediately after Goneril’s first rude speech to her father, the Fool breaks out with the apparently random words; “Out went the candle, and we were left darkling”. Thus, he catches oftener at some harmless, jesting remark, to relieve his master from the suffering, and to lighten the burden of his own grief.
The wise provoker and comforter
The Fool in King Lear emphasizes the tragedy of the events and is the reliever of them. He emphasizes the tragedy because in his character as Jester he exposes the folly of his master’s action and its consequence. His aim seems to be to induce Lear to “resume” his power. Hence he harps or expounds continually on the folly of what Lear has done and expresses the regret to which his master is ashamed to give repentance. From the close of the second Act, the tone of his sallies changes. The Fool has assumed here the role of the comforter as soon as Lear realizes that he has done wrong. But Lear’s injuries are beyond the Fool’s power to alleviate, and nothing can relieve its sheet horror. So, the Fool drops out of the action.
Full of sympathy
The Fool has no suffering of his own to move us, yet rightly seen, he does move us, and deeply too. But the process of his interest is very peculiar and recondite. His anguish is purely the anguish of sympathy – a sympathy so deep and intense as to induce absolute forgetfulness of self, all his capacities of feeling being perfectly engrossed with the sufferings of those whom he loves. He withdraws from the scene with the words; “And I’ll go bed at noon”; which means simply that the dear fellow is dying, and this too, purely of other’s sorrows, which he feels more keenly than they do themselves. For instance, when Cordelia is banished, he cannot tolerate this and takes a rest for two days without being appeared before King Lear. Along with this, when the king feels guilty for his wrongdoing, he tries to soothe him with his delightful words.
The Fool in King Lear does not make us laugh lightly but his witty comments do indeed relieve the tension, which might otherwise become unbearable. Beyond this, he serves to highlight poignantly the King’s folly and when Lear realizes this mistake, he becomes his master’s helper. With Lear’s madness, the Fool’s role ends. So, it is no doubt that the Fool is wiser than the King himself.
3. Question: Discuss the dramatic significance of the storm scene in the play King Lear.
King Lear was an old king of Britain and the protagonist of the Tragedy “King Lear” written by the literary shining star William Shakespeare (1564-1616). In act III, we have noticed a terrible storm. This storm scene has a great significance to the development of the action of the drama.
Forwarding the upcoming plot
In King Lear, the scene of the storm is seen in the third act, when the old king aroused him to the cruelty of his two daughters, the violent storm began. King Lear, Fool, and Kent are among the storms. In the third act, in the scene, King Lear seeks to get out of the strong winds and rain after the storm because he is not satisfied with the storm’s destruction. At that moment he was so very much frustrated and wanted to stop the storm. He has acted like a madman. Thus the storm has broadened the plot of the drama.
The process of Lear’s regeneration
At first King Lear wants to destroy the world because most ungrateful people like his two daughters were born here. He invites the elements to soak him in water and burn him in the fire of lightning and do all the terrible things that work on him. But later on, he is able to realize his fault and then he is a regenerated person.
The storm in Act 3 has a great symbolic value. The storm echoes Lear’s inner turmoil and mounting madness. It is a physically turbulent nature reflection of Lear’s internal confusion. At the same time, the storm embodies the awesome power of nature. The storm also symbolizes some kind of divine Justice.
Mingling Lear’s internal and external turmoil
So the scene is extremely important because it coincides with Lear’s internal turmoil and sets the process for his moral rebirth through suffering. So it is the storm that ignites the truth of Lear and the misery caused by that storm that remains in his heart. Sorrow and pain open his eyes and he sees the truth. Thus the scene of the storm coincides with the internal turmoil of his moral rebirth through suffering.
The Resemblances of Lear’s calamity
In the open surroundings, the elderly and sick king has personally felt the onslaught of this storm and very naturally remembers the catastrophe of his heart and the heart struck by his two daughters. But the king thinks that if the storm hurts him in the most unbearable way, there is nothing wrong or unnatural about it, because the elements of the storm are not his children and he never handed over their kingdom to them.
In fine, we can say that the storm appears as natural destruction of Lear’s arrogant attitude and cruelty and at the same time it is the spiritual regeneration of King Lear.
4. Question: Bring out the dramatic significance of the subplot of King Lear.
William Shakespeare (1564-1616) is a great master at creating a sub-plot within his dramas. The drama “King Lear” (1623) is one of the masterpieces where Shakespeare has successfully established a sub-plot for various significant reasons. These significances are discussed below with the reference to “King Lear”.
Connected to the main plot
Sub-plot means the supporting plot which is connected to the main plot. The sub-plot works as a secondary strand of the main plot. In the drama “ King Lear” we find the same things. This plot is developed with the story of Earl of Gloucester and his two sons Edmund and Edgar. So it is clear that the sub-plot is connected to the main plot.
Reducing the length of the story
Shakespeare in his tragedy “King Lear” has used a subplot for decreasing the length of the story. We know that Shakespeare’s dramas are the longest from the other dramas in the history of English drama. To make it short and notable he has been established as a subplot within the tragedy of “King Lear”. This subplot is paralleled the two plots of the drama and mentioned a universal theme of appearance versus reality. As Gloucester says,
“I have no way, and therefore want no eyes; I stumbled when I saw. Full oft’its seen, Our means secure us, and our mere defects prove our commodities”
Diversification of attention
Diversification of attention is the most important point which is why sub-plot is used in the drama. This point is focusing on the purification of the tragic hero or heroine. In the drama “King Lear” we find two tragic characters one Lear himself and another Lear’s youngest daughter Cordelia. Here, Shakespeare has used subplots to purify and earn sympathy from the audience for the tragic hero or heroine. Because the tragic hero is always pure according to, the fundamental rules of tragedy.
Increasing dramatic effect
The sub-plot is packed with various dramatic significance. The Earl of Gloucester and King Lear is bosom friend but they both have made an error in judgment. They have failed to judge their eligible children. So dramatically they have been fallen into a tragic consequence. The madness of Lear and the blindness of Gloucester are the most dramatic scenes of the drama. To make the drama extra dramatic and tragic Shakespeare has established the subplot of Gloucester.
Tremendous creative genius
Shakespeare is a great master of artistic genius. Before him, the Literary figures did not apply subplots in their literary works but he has shown his extraordinary genius by creating subplots in his drama especially for “King Lear”.
In termination, we can say that in the tragedy “King Lear”, Shakespeare has used a subplot to make his tragedy unique and praiseworthy.