King Lear

King lear as a tragic hero

plz include the defination of a tragic hero and tragedy .

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King Lear - Analyzing a Tragic Hero

Tragedy is defined in Websters New Collegiate Dictionary as:

1) a medieval narrative poem or tale typically describing the downfall

of a great man, 2) a serious drama typically describing a conflict

between the protagonist and a superior force (as destiny) and having a

sorrowful or disastrous conclusion that excites pity or terror. The

play of King Lear is one of William Shakespears great tragic pieces,

it is not only seen as a tragedy in itself, but also a play that

includes two tragic heroes and four villains. I felt that a tragic

hero must not be all good or all bad, but just by misfortune he is

deprived of something very valuable to him by error of judgment.

We must be able to identify ourselves with the tragic hero if

he is to inspire fear, for we must feel that what happens to him could

happen to us. If Lear was completely evil, we would not be fearful of

what happens to him: he would merely be repulsive. But Lear does

inspire fear because, like us, he is not completely upright, nor is

he completely wicked. He is foolish and arrogant, it is true, but

later he is also humble and compassionate. He is wrathful, but at

times, patient. Because of his good qualities, we experience pity for

him and feel that he does not deserve the severity of his punishment.

His actions are not occasioned by any corruption or depravity in him,

but by an error in judgment, which, however, does arise from a defect

of character. Lear has a "tragic flaw" - egotism. It is his egotism

in the first scene that causes him to make his error in judgment - the

division of his kingdom and the loss of Cordelia. Throughout the rest

of the play, the consequences of this error slowly and steadfastly

increase until Lear is destroyed. There must be a change in the life

of the tragic hero; he must past from happiness to misery. Lear, as

seen in Act I, has everything a man should want - wealth, power,

peace, and a state of well-being. Because a tragic character must

pass from happiness to misery, he must be seen at the beginning of

the play as a happy man, surrounded by good fortune. Then, the

disasters that befall him will be unexpected and will be in direct

contrast to his previous state.

In King Lear the two tragic characters, a king and an earl,

are not ordinary men. To have a man who is conspicuous endure

suffering brought about because of his own error is striking. The

fear aroused for this man is of great importance because of his

exalted position. His fall is awesome and overwhelming. When

tragedy, as in Lear, happens to two such men, the effect is even

greater. To intensify the tragedy of King Lear, Shakespeare has not

one but two tragic characters and four villains. As we have seen, the

sub-plot - concerning Gloucester, Edmund, and Edgar - augments the

main plot. Gloucester undergoes physical and mental torment because

he makes the same mistake that Lear does. Like Lear, Gloucester is

neither completely good nor completely bad. There is, for instance, a

coarseness in the earl, who delights in speaking of his adultery. But

he has good qualities as well. He shows, for instance, concern for

Kent in the stocks, and he risks his life to help Lear. Gloucester's

punishment, his blindness, parallel's Lear's madness. These two

tragic stories unfolding at the same time give the play a great


The important element in tragedy is action, not character. It

is the deeds of men that bring about their destruction. Lear calls

upon the "great gods," Edgar and Kent blame Fortune, and Gloucester

says that the gods "kill us for their sport" (IV.i.37). But in

reality the calamities that befall both Lear and Gloucester occur

because of the actions of these men. Their actions, it is true, grow

out of their characters: both are rash, unsuspecting, and vengeful.

But the actions themselves are the beginnings of their agony, for

these actions start a chain of events that lead to ultimate


A tragic hero gains insight through suffering. Neither Lear

nor Gloucester realizes he has committed an error until he has

suffered. Lear's suffering is so intense that it drives him mad; it

is on the desolate health that he fully realizes his mistake in giving

the kingdom to his two savage daughters and disowning the one daughter

who loves him. It is not until Gloucester has been blinded that he

learns the truth about his two sons. These two characters learn to

endure their suffering. When Gloucester's attempt to commit suicide

fails, he decides to bear his affliction until the end. In his

madness Lear learns to endure his agony. Later, when he knows he

is to be imprisoned, he maintains this misfortune with a passive

calmness. He has grown piritually through painfully achieved

self-knowledge and through Cordelia's love. Tragedy in King Lear is

not only seen through itself but, also through the character of the

King and other characters. The Play of King Lear is a great tragic

play that many tragedies try to compare to.