King Lear

The Use of Comedy in King Lear College

William Shakespeare is no stranger to the bending and breaking of conventions. Hailed as an inventor of words from “elbow” to “sneak”, and a master playwright who created some of the most enduring plot structures, like that of Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare’s legacy comes as a result of his unfailing creativity. It is this unwillingness to follow the classification of “tragedy” too strictly that allowed him to incorporate elements of comedy in one of his most tragic works, King Lear. Though moments of laughter relatively hard to come by in his 17th century play, there are undeniable elements of comedy incorporated in Shakespeare's tragedy. In blurring the boundaries between tragic and comedic, critics for centuries have argued that Shakespeare perhaps overstepped his bounds in mixing two genres that are fundamentally incompatible. But it is the opposite that is true; King Lear requires elements of comedy to succeed as in both its roles as literature and entertainment. The importance of comedy within King Lear can be observed most clearly in its role as relief, its position as a manner of coping tragedy, and finally its strategy of subtle criticism throughout the play.

Comic relief is perhaps one of the most common uses of comedy...

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