King Lear

Patterns of Reversal, Paradox and Irony in King Lear

Throughout King Lear, the play's themes and messages are communicated to the audience using a devastating combination of irony; reversal of situation and fortune; and paradox, underlining the harrowing truth of the futility of human existence presented in the play. This method is particularly effective because it highlights the fickle nature of the course of events. How one interprets this depends upon whether one believes there are gods of some sort in the play: if supernatural beings do exist in the world of the play, and are controlling events, then Gloucester's lines, "Like flies to wanton boys are we to the gods, / They kill us for their sport" may be true, and if so this reduces the bleakness of the final picture because at least the gods have gained some pleasure from their "sport" and there is some semblance of meaning to the events. However there is much evidence to suggest that these gods do not exist: the belief in such beings is heavily satirized throughout and seen as a weakness and an excuse by those characters who do not believe in the higher powers Edmund says of Gloucester's belief:

"This is the excellent foppery of the world, that when we are sick in fortune often the...

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