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King Lear is a Tragic Hero
Transcript of King Lear is a Tragic Hero
Aristotle's views have greatly influenced Western philosophy. Aristotle maintained that there are five stages in the journey of a Tragic Hero. Aristotle's Tragic Hero The Tragic Hero is either of noble birth or maintains a high position in society. Pre-Eminence "[...] I do invest you jointly with my power,
Pre-eminence, and all the large effects
That troop with majesty. Ourself, by monthly course,
With reservation of a hundred knights,
Be you to be sustain'd, shall be our abode
Make with you by due turns. Only we still retain
The name, and all the additions to a king; [...]
(Act 1 Scene 1 Verse 138-144) [page 11] Pre-Eminence continued Based on King Lear's fulfillment of 4 out of the 5 principles of Aristotle's Tragic Hero (pre-eminence, flaw, fall, insight), King Lear is a tragic hero. Our idea of the 'Tragic Hero' comes from his writings (Poetics). 1. Pre-Eminence
2. Tragic Flaw
4. Gaining of Insight
5. Rise Lear is King of Britain at the beginning of the play, therefore he has pre-eminence. Great Chain of Being God
Everyone Else King Lear addressing Goneril and Regan regarding his royal power, after his banishment of Cordelia. Tragic Flaw The tragic hero has one major flaw that helps elicit pity from the audience.
This flaw in the tragic hero helps us relate to the character. King Lear's tragic flaw is his HUBRIS. Tragic Flaw continued... Kent says:
[...]"Reserve thy state
And in thy best consideration check
This hideous rashness. Answer my life my judgement,
Thy youngest daughter does not love thee least" [...] Instead of stopping to consider Kent's words, Lear replies: [...]"If, on the tenth day following,
Thy banished trunk be found in our dominions,
The moment is thy death. Away! By Jupiter,
This shall not be revoked." (Act 1 Scene 1 Verse 158 - 161) [page 12] (Act 1 Scene 1 Verse 190 - 194) [page 13] The audience pities Lear as they watch how horribly Goneril and Regan treat him throughout the play. Fall The hero’s downfall is their own fault, a result of an error in judgement.
This error in judgement is known as HAMARTIA.
Yet, the hero’s misfortunes are not completely deserved. The punishment exceeds the crime. King Lear’s hamartia is the division
of his royal power before he is ready & his banishment of Cordelia. Lear continues to order people around as if he still had this power, he can not accept the role he has given to himself. Fall continued.... After his argument with Goneril, Lear demands:
[...]"Saddle my horses! Call my train together!" (Act 1 Scene 4 Verse 251) [page 49] Outside Gloucester's castle, Lear declares that:
"The King would speak with Cornwall; the dear father
Would with his daughter speak, commands thy service." (Act 1 Scene 4 Verse 110-112) [page 87] Gaining of Insight The hero who suffers through their misfortune always gains self-knowledge or awareness of something that they did not know at the beginning of the tragedy. Lear gains awareness (that Cordelia was the daughter that truly loved him) during his misfortunes. Gaining of Insight continued.... When the French knights find Lear, Cordelia speaks to him, saying:
"O, look upon me sir,
And hold your hands in benediction o'er me."
"Pray, do not mock me.
I am a very foolish old man" [...] (Act IV Scene 7 Verse 65-69) [page 187] "Pray you now, forget and forgive. I am old and foolish." "Pray you now, forget and forgive. I am old and foolish." Catharsis "to Cleanse" Catharsis would be 'rise', the fifth step in the journey of Aristotle's tragic hero, but it does not occur in King Lear. Catharsis is the relieving of emotional tension at the end of a tragedy. This is usually done in the form of a character transforming into a better person, justice being served to those who deserve it, or the world order being put back to how it should be.
Catharsis is necessary because the audience resonates with the pain of the characters; they live out the tragedy themselves and now must be purified. In King Lear, there is no clear sense of Catharsis. The main characters do not change into better people, while both good and evil characters end up dead, leaving the audience with no clear sense of justice. Discuss Keeping in mind that Catharsis is the release of emotion gained from experiencing the actions in a tragedy... Was there an instance in King Lear that relieved you of emotional tension? When Edgar announces the death of the Duke of Gloucester, the death comes as a relief. Gloucester has had to bear blinding and torture. There is relief knowing he will no longer suffer. Discuss Do the characters decide the action that occurs throughout King Lear, or does fate decide for them? The calamities of a Shakespearean tragedy do not simply happen, they are a result of people's actions. The characters of King Lear are placed in situations where they are forced to act, and their actions beget other actions, until finally the characters are led into a catastrophe. Finding Other Tragic Heroes... There are several other characters that fit into Aristotle's idea of a tragic hero. Put together the pieces of your tragic hero (PRE-EMINENCE, TRAGIC FLAW, FALL/HAMARTIA, INSIGHT, and RISE/CATHARSIS) to discover other tragic heroes from movies, books and plays!