King Lear is a catastrophe among William Shakespeare's writings; it is one of the books that discuss the realities that confront the ancient and modern society at large. The novel portrays the origin of madness through the main character, King Lear. He is the subject character whose central theme of the play is anchored and disseminated to the audience. The story starts when the King offers inheritances to two of his daughters; he is provoked by their frequent sycophancy which makes him give up on his kingdom. His kingdom faces disastrous outcomes as a result of his decision to ditch his kingdom. The title role of this play has been borrowed by several world-class actors because of its extensive modification and movement pictures. It is about family breakdown and oldness where life seems absurd and cruel. Madness is clearly portrayed in this play, Shakespeare has shown that madness is the act of losing connection with the reality. King Lear provides an insight into what ails the society in many aspects, ranging from personal weaknesses, the age difference and power struggle which are reminiscent of the society at large. Various characters have different degrees of madness in the play and some of them go to the extent of showing pride in their madness. Madness, as portrayed in the play King Lear is a common challenge in the society, it arises from various social challenges that confront the character plays including but not limited to family disintegration, the sharp aging challenge as well as authority and power struggles.
Family Dynamic (Disintegration)
In King Lear, there are two families comprising of three daughters and their father and another family of two male children and their father. As the story continues, it narrates that one of the sons is moral while the other is wicked. In Lear's family, he is depicted as a bad father because he offers the largest piece of land to the daughter who loves him the most. Two of his daughters have no doubts in confessing the love they have for their dad. Goneril comes out first to confess the love she has for her dad and she does it so well that it almost gets repulsive. She says, "Sir, I love you more than words can wield the matter; Dearer than eye-sight, space and liberty; beyond what can be valued, rich or rare; her egoistic and mean nature is shown later in the play," (Tate n.p). Cordelia has a very strong relationship with her dad compared to her sisters Goneril and Reagan. Cordelia and Lear have different opinions on what is essential in the world and this eventually makes their relationship to break. The family is a dysfunctional one because Lear's role as a father and a king in the whole play is doubted. One of the daughters says that "yet he hath ever but slenderly known himself." The King becomes very desperate and disoriented to an extent that he becomes hysterically mad.
King Laer has attained an age where he does not intend to serve as a king anymore, as the play begins, it indicates a tired and worn out king who wants to give up his role as the king to the next generation of leaders. His advanced age is accelerated by the two of his three daughters were already married and constantly stresses him out. Lear puts himself in a position of having to support his claims of being a wise man and this makes him learn that everyone has to go through old age. His wealth and name are all unprotected and he starts to feel his clothes loosen. "Unburdened crawl toward death," this is a clear manifestation of the advanced age of Lear who nears his death. Shakespeare portrays the importance of old age and claims that the older a person gets, the more they do not come across improved things. They only tolerate the results of old age, King Lear's wife's does not bear with the consequences that come with old age because she dies. He has to endure an unkind end compared to his wife whose end seems more compassionate. He says, " Is this the promis'd end," it is evident that he accepts that he cannot predict or expect death. Old age and death cannot be avoided because they are closely related to each other. When one gets old what follows after that is death. Lear finds out that the grief he is going through is as a result of his own actions as he begins to feel his death getting closer. He says, "and 'tis our fast intent to shake all cares and business from our age; Conferring them on younger strengths, while we Unburthen'd crawl toward death. Everyone must know that death must be experienced by each individual and this is through their character and actions. Lear's advanced age leads him to make irrational decisions in a mad like way. Age is a critical aspect insanity reasoning, grasp, and comprehension of issues in the society.
In Shakespeare's play, King Lear, the psychology of power is deeply evident in the catastrophe. The power that taints the characters plays a major role in the play. Lear has the ability to influence and control what he wishes and do what he wants without being accountable for it to authority. This makes his daughters Goneril and Regan tainted by the power he offers them. Edmund also develops the urge to accomplish his own social and sensual power. The fact that an aged king can hold a ritual to willingly renounce his position in his kingdom to his female children cannot be understood easily. King Lear has no aim of giving up his position as king and this recognition makes it difficult to understand his true intentions. It is his power that encourages him to take the unexpected actions. On the contrary, Lear has a goal to strip himself of power because he feels that it is not very important to him anymore. He takes this as the best decision because he is able to combine the personal powers that he feels he is losing as he is getting older. He organizes a love competition for his female children including his successor, Cordelia refuses to take part in the competition. this makes him very furious. This shows the extent to which power has been depicted by Shakespeare in his King Lear.
Shakespeare has used madness in this play to show the behavior of the characters. They make decisions without connecting them with reality. Madness causes King Laer's family to break, it causes his resignation from power and he begins to relate old age to death. He believes that the older one gets, the more they experience worse things.
Tate, Nahum. "The history of King Lear." Adaptations of Shakespeare. Routledge, 2014. 72-102.
Shakespeare, William. King Lear. Cambridge University Press, 1897.
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