Essay Comparing The Tempest and King Lear

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Comparing The Tempest and King Lear

This essay will focus on the similarities and differences of the plays The Tempest and King Lear in general, as well as looking at comparisons of Prospero and Lear in somewhat more detail.

Prospero and Lear are, without a doubt, the two most compelling mature figures in Shakespeare. In a way, one is the flip side, so to speak, of the other. Each represents an aging man's relationship to family, environment, and, most importantly, himself. One might even be so bold as to venture that had Lear lived, he might, through the enormity of his painful transformation, have become a character much like Prospero, a man who has learned bitter lessons from his intercourse with the world and has
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Lear, likewise, is the victim of a tempest, also a turning point in the plot, as well as a powerful force in his own agonizing journey through growth and self-discovery. In a way, Lear's tempest is more significant in that it represents the Hegelian dialectic of thesis, antithesis, synthesis; out of Lear's agonizing conflict with nature and his subsequent madness comes a new and better man, a man cleansed, literally and figuratively, by the raging water of the storm. It is interesting to note the main difference between the roles played by Lear and Prospero in their respective interactions with the storm: Lear is the victim of the maelstrom, Prospero the creator. Each character is defined to a certain extent by this relationship to nature's wrath, one experiencing it as a kind of chastisement, the other utilizing it to further his own ends. Lear rages against the storm, shouting, "You sulph'rous and thought-executing fires,/ Vaunt-couriers of oak-cleaving thunderbolts,/ Singe my white head! And thou all-shaking thunder,/ Strike flat the thick rotundity o'th'world!" (III.II.4-7). Compare this with Miranda's request that "If by your art, my dearest father, you have/ Put the wild waters in this roar, allay them." (I.I.1-2).

The bond between father and daughter in each play, while seemingly incidental, must
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