King Lear

Order, Chaos, and Climax In King Lear

A recurring theme throughout William Shakespeare's King Lear is the perpetual struggle between order and chaos, played out in the arena of human existence. While such characters as Lear, Cordelia, Albany and Edgar try to impose their sense of divine and moral order on the muddled world around them, the insubordination of Goneril, Regan and Edmund serves to undermine these attempts, leading inexorably towards a catastrophic climax in the play's final scene. Interestingly, the play does not follow a straight downwards path from order to chaos; rather, it acts somewhat like a roller coaster, enduring a fall when Goneril, Regan and Edmund usurp the throne, then a slow ascension as all three die in the final scene, and finally a sharp drop after the central moment in the text: Cordelia's death. As a playwright, Shakespeare knew that his work was meant to be performed, and this structure allows for the most emotional response from the audience. Instead of a gradual decline in order, which would have given the audience time to prepare themselves for the coming chaos, Shakespeare offers us a building sense of hope that suddenly crumbles into despair. Thus, the very structure of the play reflects the disorderliness that...

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