Shakespeare’s tragedy King Lear is a detailed description of the consequences of one man’s decisions. This fictitious man is Lear, King of England, who’s decisions greatly alter his life and the lives of those around him. As Lear bears the status of King he is, as one expects, a man of great power but sinfully he surrenders all of this power to his daughters as a reward for their demonstration of love towards him. (Cain) This untimely abdication of his throne results in a chain reaction of events that send him through a journey of hell. King Lear is a metaphorical description of one man’s journey through hell in order to expiate his sin. As the play opens one can almost immediately see that Lear begins to make mistakes that will eventually result in his downfall. (Neher)
This is the first and most significant of the many sins that he makes in this play. By abdicating his throne to fuel his ego he is disrupts the great chain of being which states that the King must not challenge the position that God has given him. This undermining of God’s authority results in chaos that tears apart Lear’s world. (Williams) Leaving him, in the end, with nothing. Following this Lear begins to banish those around him that genuinely care for him as at this stage he cannot see beyond the mask that the evil wear. He banishes Kent, a loyal servant to Lear, and his youngest and previously most loved daughter Cordelia. (Nixon) This results in Lear surrounding himself with people who only wish to use him which leaves him very vulnerable attack. This is precisely what happens and it is through this that he discovers his wrongs and amends them. Following the committing of his sins, Lear becomes abandoned and estranged from his kingdom which causes him to loose sanity. While lost in his grief and self-pity the fool is introduced to guide Lear back to the sane world and to help find the lear that was ounce lost behind a hundred Knights but now is out in the open and scared like a little child. (Bradley) The fact that Lear has now been pushed out from behind his Knights is dramatically represented by him actually being out on the lawns of his castle. The terrified little child that is now unsheltered is dramatically portrayed by Lear’s sudden insanity and his rage and anger is seen through the thunderous weather that is being experienced. All of this contributes to the suffering of Lear due to the gross sins that he has committed. The pinnacle of this hell that is experienced be Lear in order to repay his sins is at the end of the play when Cordelia is killed. Lear says this before he himself dies as he cannot live without his daughter. (Bradley)
All of this pain that Lear suffered is traced back to the single most important error that he made. The choice to give up his throne. This one sin has proven to have massive repercussions upon Lear and the lives of those around him eventually killing almost all of those who were involved. And one is left to ask one’s self if a single wrong turn can do this to Lear then what difficult corner lies ahead that may cause similar alterations in one’s life.
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