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King Lear - An Aristotelian Tragic Hero

Shakespeare masterfully develops Aristotelian tragic heroes. According to Aristotle, a tragedy depicts the downfall of a hero due to his tragic flaw (hamartia) and fate or the actions of the Gods. A tragic hero, normally an aristocrat or nobleman, ultimately recognizes his tragic flaw (agnorisis), but usually only after it leads to his suffering and demise (peripeteia). In the finish, the tragedy evokes a sense of pity or catharsis for the tragic hero. King Lear completely fits Aristotle’s definition of a tragic hero. As a outcome of his tragic flaw, King Lear’s life is transformed from a life of very good fortune and privilege to a life of misfortune in which he suffers several losses such as loss of authority, identity, and in the end, sanity.

At the commencement of the play, it is evident that King Lear is provided all the respect and honour of a nobleman. Kent articulates his nobility, “Royal Lear, Whom I have honored as my king, Loved as my father, as my master followed, As my great patron believed on in my prayers,” (Shakespeare 1.1. 141-144). As the King of Britain, he is the highest ranking member of British royalty and enjoys a life-style of happiness and wonderful privilege. His social rank added to his pride as he referred to himself as “Apollo” and “Jupiter”.

As with many of Shakespeare’s tragic heroes, Lear’s tragic flaw is his obstinate pride and lack of personal insight and judgement. This hubris not only brings about his personal suffering, but also causes other folks pain. For instance, becoming dissatisfied with Cordelia’s response about her really like for him, King Lear’s pride lead him to banish Cordelia, followed by his loyal servant Kent when he tries to enlighten him. Kent is banished right after he tells King Lear that Cordelia loves him: “Thy youngest daughter does not love thee least, Nor are these empty-hearted whose low sound, Reverb no hollowness,”(Shakespeare 1.1.171-173). Lear’s pride blinded him from listening to Kent and from seeing the accurate faces and intentions of his daughters, Regan and Goneril. His lack of insight permitted him to be manipulated by the kind, though deceptive words of his cunning daughters. The tragedy, and Lear’s individual downfall unfold when he divides his kingdom in between the antagonists, Regan and Goneril, not primarily based on merit, but rather flattery. The two ungrateful daughters subsequently conspire against him, remove him from their residences and leave him as a man begging for food and shelter.

Lear’s foolishness gradually turns into madness. He hires a servant (Kent in disguise) with no being aware of anything about him. He begins to doubt his judgement and starts to show hostility to other people for no apparent explanation. His suffering drives him to insanity. He all of a sudden realizes his grave error in dividing his kingdom to his two undeserving daughters and disowning the sincere 1. Relating to Cordelia he says: “I did her incorrect,” (Shakespeare 1.five. 24). His suffering is compounded by the understanding that Regan and Goneril have betrayed him. He threatens, “I will have such revenges on you both that all the planet shall — I will do such things — What they are but, I know not but they shall be the terrors of the earth!” (Shakespeare 2.four.279-282). Through his discomfort and suffering he acknowledges that he is going mad and, at very first asks the gods to intervene, “O, let me not be mad, not mad, sweet heaven! Hold me in temper I would not be mad!”(Shakespeare 1.4.24) but later merely provides into his madness, “I have complete lead to of weeping, but this heart shall break into a hundred thousand flaws or ere I’ll weep. O fool, I shall go mad!” (Shakespeare 2.five.284-286). In the final scene, Lear slips in and out of insanity. He temporarily regains his sanity and happiness when he sees Cordelia, “We two alone will sing like birds i’ the cage. When thou dost ask me blessing, I’ll kneel down, And ask of thee forgiveness”, (Shakespeare five.three. 9-11). When he carries in her dead body, he once more deteriorates into madness and his ultimate demise is death.

In the finish, the audience can not help but really feel profound pity for King Lear. He is elderly and appears to have been a very good king and father at some point. His tragic flaw causes him to fall from being the most crucial man in Britain to “a slave, a poor, infirm, weak and despised old man”, (Shakespeare 3.2.19-20). He becomes complete of self pity when he is caught in the storm. He loses all self-assurance, power, authority, enjoy – and even sanity – in the face of his daughters’ actions. Even though Lear instigated this tragedy by banishing Cordelia, the consequences of his tragic flaw look to be unjustly harsh. The audience witnesses the cruelty he is subjected to by others and hopes to see their downfall. Unfortunately, in this tragedy, Lear is not victorious.

King Lear satisfies all the needs of an Aristotelian tragic hero. The nobleman’s adore of flattery, his anger, pride and misjudgements lead not only to his own downfall but to the destruction of his family and the death of several other individuals, which includes Cordelia, the only daughter who genuinely loved him. Even though, in the end, he displays self realization, humility and humanity, the discovery takes place considerably also late to save him. The audience is left sympathizing for a man who suffered far more than he deserved.
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