traglear King Lear as an Arthur Miller Tragedy Essay

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King Lear as an Arthur Miller Tragedy

If we seek to justify Shakespeare's King Lear as a tragedy by applying Arthur Miller's theory of tragedy and the tragic hero, then we might find Lear is not a great tragedy, and the character Lear is hardly passable for a tragic hero. However, if we take Aristotle's theory of tragedy to examine this play, it would fit much more neatly and easily. This is not because Aristotle prescribes using nobility for the subject of a tragedy, but, more importantly, because he emphasizes the purpose of tragedy -- to arouse pity and fear in the audience, and thus purge them of such emotions.

Arthur Miller, in his famous 1949 essay, "Tragedy and the Common Man," states the following as the nature of …show more content…

Since he himself, not the environment surrounding him, is responsible for his misfortune, there cannot be a struggle between Lear and the society/environment, as Miller describes in his essay.

As for trying to regain his rightful status, King Lear has done little. At first he does not even understand his mistake. In [1.4], when he leaves Goneril because she cut his one hundred knights down to fifty, and then decides to return because Regan will allow only twenty-five [2.2], he is the same foolish Lear in [1.1] who banished Cordelia and believed flowery lies. He has not tried to evaluate himself justly at this point, or even acknowledge his misjudgment.

When he understands his mistake, realizing that Goneril and Regan are both heartless liars, and only Cordelia truly loves him, he starts to go mad. In his better moments he remembers to curse Goneril and Regan and lament his suffering, while in worse moments his utterance hardly make sense. Both are passive reactions to his misfortune, not active struggle for re-establishing his dignity.

Arthur Miller's theory fails to account for the tragicness of King Lear, but Aristotle's Poetics provides us with a much more satisfying justification of the play being a tragedy. In the following section, I will try to demonstrate that Lear has the essence of what makes a tragedy, according to the Greek philosopher, tragedy.

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