Artistic Form in King Lear

1240 WordsJun 23, 20185 Pages
King Lear has remained one of Shakespeare’s best works, and one of the best tragedies of all time, since the beginning of the 17th century; however, some early critics believe that certain elements of the story do not satisfy the criteria for a proper tragedy. The two plot elements under speculation are the subplot and the catastrophic ending. The primary focus of the story is set on the elderly King Lear, whose pride and greed blinds him, causing him to banish his only pure daughter, Cordelia, along with his most loyal subject, Kent. He bestows his power and land upon his ungrateful daughters Regan and Goneril, who immediately plot to strip him of the remainder of his power as well as his pride. A similar subplot emerges where the Earl…show more content…
A majority of the play is based on Lear’s suffering, and this principal theme would be lost in a happy ending. It is later argued that not only was such a catastrophic end necessary, but that even the virtuous characters brought death upon themselves, Lear and Gloucester by mistrusting their bonds between their children and Cordelia by refusing to humor Lear in the first scene, and responding with harshness even in his elder state. (Ulrici 203) The previously contested Gloucester subplot is also justified as it “contributes to the intrigue or denouement.” (Schlegel 412) The subplot is further validated because it is thought to prepare the audience for the greater misfortune of Lear. It serves as a control that appears almost commonplace when compared with Lear’s situation. (Dowden 235) The 19th century is the most influential period in the criticism of King Lear because it marks the transition from a predominantly Neoclassical view of the structure of the play to the more flexible Romantic interpretation. Plot elements that were formerly criticized for their structure or lack of structure are analyzed with more depth at the turn of the century. The viewpoints expressed in this century largely constitute the contemporary interpretation of King Lear. Although the structure of King Lear is a largely debated issue in the 18th and 19th centuries, by the
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