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review 2016-05-02 14:32
A Story of a Man Who Just Wants to Be Loved
King Lear - William Shakespeare

This is by far and away my favourite Shakespeare play. It is a very dark and brooding play that is not only incredibly violent, but also ends very badly for most of the main characters. King Lear is one of Shakespeare's great tragedies (along with the Scottish Play and Hamlet) though I find that Hamlet is a lot tighter and the plots are a lot more intertwined than King Lear.

 

What I mean by this is that there are, I'll say two, plots running side by side and then merge at the end of the play. It is noticeable that both of these plots deal with the same theme, and that is of love. This first plot involves King Lear and the second involves Edgar, his bastard half-brother Edmund, and their father the duke of Gloucester. Lear believes that he has become too old to be a king and decides to divide his kingdom between his daughters, and the biggest portion will go to the one who loves him the most. Two of the daughters put on a song and dance about how much they love him, while the third, who truly loves him, can only be honest. Lear is angered at what he considers a pathetic response, and banishes her from the Kingdom, and divides it between his remaining two daughters. Lord Kent rebukes Lear for this, and Lear banishes him as well.

 

The Edgar/Edmund plot involves the villain Edmund, who is bitter at being a bastard and schemes to destroy his legitimate brother and take his place. He deceives his father, and Edgar flees to the moors where he disguises himself as Mad Tom, and then brands his father as a traitor (he is aware that the King of France is landing an army in England to restore Lear's third daughter, Cordielia, to the throne, particularly since her sisters have stripped Lear of his kingdom), and then strips him of his dignity by blinding him, and then banishes him to the moors.

 

As mentioned, the theme of this play is about love. King Lear simply wants to be loved, but does not understand that love is defined by actions not words. This is very clear with Lord Kent who, despite being banished, disguises himself and returns to serve Lear, and despite Lear being stripped of his authority, still recognises him as the true King of England. It is interesting to note that at the close of the play, once Lear has died and Kent is offered the crown, he refuses it, and instead hands it to Edgar, who has been vindicated (and was also the one to defeat Edmund in an epic sword fight). We see a similar theme with Edgar and Gloucester who he finds wondering the moors as a blind man, and assists him to return to his glory (before he dies).

 

While there is a lot more to this play, another interesting aspect is the division of the kingdom. It is quite anachronistic for the period in which the play was written (or when it was set, in a mythological pre-Roman era – the sources for the play would be Monmouth's Kings of Britain), however during the era of Charlegmaine, this was something that would happen. One's kingdom, and property, were not handed down to the first born, but divided between the male heirs to the throne. This is probably the main reason why Charlegmaine's empire did not last much beyond his lifetime.

 

I have written a much more detailed analysis, for those who are interested, on my Blog (though this was after watching the Ian McKellan version of the play).

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/187711584
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review 2015-10-18 23:03
King Lear
King Lear - Alfred Harbage,William Shakespeare
bookshelves: classic, play-dramatisation, re-read, published-1606, autumn-2015, halloween-2015, tragedy, re-visit-2015, paper-read, film-only
Read from January 01, 1970 to October 16, 2015, read count: 4

 

Full film

After encountering 1606: William Shakespeare and the Year of Lear by James Shapiro the play had to be watched again and this version is a BBC production starring Ian Holm.
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review 2015-06-10 00:00
King Lear
King Lear - William Shakespeare There are three main reasons for the disorder already occurring by the end of Act I. The first and most obvious is Lear's madness. He certain seems to be loosing it a bit, and his crazed banishment of Cordelia and Kent couldn't possibly have done anything but harm to him. The second reason is Cordelia's sister's treachery. It could be argued that they appear to be trying to protect him and their people by taking away his knights, he is crazy after all, if it weren't for Cordelia's parting words to them; "I know you what you are;/And, like a sister, am most loth to call/Your faults as they are nam'd. Love well our father:/To your professed bosoms I commit him:/But yet, alas, stood I within his grace, I would prefer him to a better place." And a few lines later; "Time shall unfold what plighted cunning/Who cover faults, at last shame them derides." These lines seem to indicate that Cordelia knows that Goneril and Regan are not only flattering Lear for gain, but also that they hold him in contempt, and will likely do him harm, and revealing the second harbinger of disorder.

The third indicator of the chaos to come is Edmund. I feel bad for him, for the contempt others hold him in because of the doings of his parents, but he quickly does what he can to dispel my pity for him with his evil attitudes as he works to turn his father and brother against one another. I find it ironic that he distains his father's belief in fate through astrology, yet confesses that because of when he was born he was supposed to be 'rough and lecherous,' yet doesn't believe himself to have those traits he was just showing.

Shakespeare's purpose in showing this disorder seems to come from the idea of dividing his kingdom. A divided kingdom would often lead to civil war and chaos, so Lear's deliberate dividing of the kingdom would probably have been viewed as deliberately inviting disorder.

Power in England was structured in a pyramid. The king on top, and wealth and power went to a few nobles who had all the money. Lear was trying to disrupt that structure in a way that would have alarmed the people watching the play. Cordelia took a great risk in not bowing to her father's wishes, as his denying her dowry could have driven away both her suitors, leaving her alone and destitute in a world that didn't favor lone women. In her case, however Cordelia's suitor from France still marries her, which would be very unusual since she had no dowry, and she wouldn't gain him an alliance with England.

Family dynamics can change depending on the health of a person, as others may come into their lives and as children grow up. Cordelia was Lear's favorite child, yet when she would not lie to him with flattery, he cast her off. Why? Did he not realize that her impending marriage would change is relationship with her? She would still love him, of course, but even with the play being in pre-Christian era, the belief would probably have been that the wife's foremost alliegence should be to her husband, and Lear should have understood this. In fact, it seems strange that he would have even questioned this part of the structure of society at all.

No one has a perfect family. This is shown in Edgar and Edmund's family. Gloster (or Gloucester as some versions call him) may have been unfaithful to his wife, it's never stated whether she was alive at the time of Edmund's conception. If Gloster was unfaithful to his wife than he was dishonest and breaking one of the oldest understandings of marriage. If Edgar's mother had already died, that Gloster was not responsible enough to remarry, and to marry Edmund's mother, or at least admit himself Edmund's father when the boy was a child, instead of waiting until Edmund was old enough to distinguish himself, and in doing so, add to Gloster's reputation. It seems very unfair that Edmund, and almost any other illigitmate child born until the the late 1900s should be punished for something that their parents did. Yet neither should Edmund take out his misfortunes on his brother, who was, in all probability, guiltless in tormenting him. After all, Edgar trusts Edmund completely, which does not seem like an attitude he would hold had he tormented Edmund before. I think that Gloster could have stopped his fate had he treated Edmund with kindness from the beginning of his life, rather than waiting until Edmund could add to his reputation to acknowledge him.

I don't actually seem him mocking Edmund, so much as simply being ashamed of his illegitimacy because it was Gloster's own act that was the cause of Edmund's bastardy. As Gloster was speaking to Kent, he was very frank about the manner of Edmund's conception, to the point that we would say he was being rude to Edmund, but really, for the time, the fact that he had acknowledged Edmund as his son at all was better than many bastards would have gotten. For this reason I think that more than anything it was the fact that he took so long to acknowledge Edmund, that led to Edmund's bitterness and Gloster's downfall.

(This review is patched up from posts I made on an online Shakespeare class)
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text 2014-11-17 02:03
227 of 261 (87%)
King Lear (Folger Shakespeare Library) unknown Edition by Shakespeare, William, Werstine, Paul (2005) - William Shakespeare

It's picking up a bit, though I think I would find it more powerful if I could actually see Lear's madness and the way it's changing him. I don't see a huge change just in the dialogue--I need it all together. This is the exact reason why I love Hamlet but not actually reading Hamlet

 

Still not my favorite play by Shakespeare. 

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text 2014-11-15 21:52
149 of 261 (57%)
King Lear (Folger Shakespeare Library) unknown Edition by Shakespeare, William, Werstine, Paul (2005) - William Shakespeare

My teacher really loves King Lear, so I'm hoping that I do, too. So far, it's kind of boring and Lear is somewhat of an imbecile... Definitely not my favorite Shakespeare play we've read this semester, and I'm hoping it gets powerful or moving or tear-inducing really soon. I guess I'll know by Tuesday!

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