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Analysis of How Characters in Shakespeare’s King Lear Are Responsible for Their Actions

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William Shakespeare’s King Lear follows the philosophy, that ultimately we all control our own destinies. All through life, one will in general experience changes dependent on choices they make that lead them to how they came to be. A poor judgement of character refers to the inability to tell whether an individual is genuine, solely based on a characters opinion. The character fails to own their wrongdoings, never feeling responsible. The definition of blindness usually refers to a literal or figurative inability to see. Shakespeare puts this recognition to address when he utilizes visual impairment as a reason for debasement in his play King Lear. The visual impairment utilized by Shakespeare is to a lesser degree a physical blemish than it is a psychological one, with hindrances, for example, absence of sensible judgment and indiscreet activities. An example of the blindness Shakespeare uses in today’s society is when you love someone and cannot see any fault or wrongdoing as a result of the depth of your love. In the following essay, we will be looking into King Lear, and the portrayal of how Characters in Shakespeare King Lear are responsible for their actions and the choices they make throughout the play, by first looking at his judgement of character, further elaboration and qualification will be made looking into his portrayal of blindness, and lastly, how he acts on anger, allowing his judgement to be clouded by indignation.

Firstly we must assess the extent of Lear’s own responsibility for his downfall, through his actions and character shortcomings. A subject noticeable in the play is that of ‘judgment of character’, and it is in the ‘affection test, and it is in the ‘love-test’ of the opening scene that Lear’s judgement of his daughters is tested. The two elder, Goneril and Regan, behave in an obsequious way in order to gain advantage towards their father, claiming

“Sir, I love you more than words can wield the matter;

Dearer than eye-sight, space, and liberty;

Beyond what can be valued, rich or rare;

No less than life, with grace, health, beauty, honour;

As much as child e’er loved, or father found;

A love that makes breath poor, and speech unable;

Beyond all manner of so much I love you.”

Cordelia merely says,

‘Miserable that I am,

I can’t hurl my heart into my mouth.

I adore your greatness as indicated by my bond;

no more nor less”.

Lear neglects to understand that this articulation is increasingly legitimate and basic than those of Goneril and Regan. His actions in the first scene cause a move of intensity among Lear and his two residual daughters and appear to shape the establishment for his fast approaching ruin. By banishing Cordelia he debilitates as opposed to fortifies his control over his daughters, as Goneril and Regan are now well-placed for their struggle for supreme power. All through the play, King Lear is continually searching for clarification from his girls, requesting that they demonstrate to him the amount they adore him. Lear constantly looking for qualification, he poorly judges his daughters character’s, not realizing there is a possibility his daughters are not truthful, which does happen. He is to blame for not seeing this, being naive to the fact he has been deceived.

Secondly, Lear’s lack of self-knowledge and understanding is often presented through ‘sight’ and ‘blindness’ imagery. When wronged or challenged, Lear dismisses them with ‘Out of my sight’, marking his refusal to look on those who have questioned his judgement. Moments before his banishment, Kent urges the King to reconsider his rash actions, ‘See better, Lear.’ and then adds ‘let me still remain/the true blank of thine eye’ – that Lear will begin to see things accurately by looking through Kent. When one of Lear’s servants, Kent, says

“And in thy nest consideration check this hideous rashness.

Answer my life, my judgement,

thy youngest daughter does not love thee least,

nor are those empty-hearted whose low

sound reverb no hollowness”.

Lear is being naive and not seeing that he is pushing the people that care and love him the most away, and keeping the people that are lying to him, like his two other daughters are Cordelia has his told her father how much she loves him. Her speech is honest, but less persuasive than her sisters’. He banishes her from his sight and from the kingdom altogether. When Lear’s faithful servant Kent tries to reason with him Lear also banishes him. Kent tells him to ‘See better’ meaning that he needs to open his eyes to the mistake he is about to make. Lear later regrets this as his other two daughters betray him. Lear is blind to things right in front of him, his blindness and stubbornness adds to the reason he is responsible for his actions throughout the book. It can be argued that King Lear’s blindness was the direct reason behind his entire downfall and tragic death. His blindness led him to the decisions he made, and his blindness being a part of an individual’s whole self, further explains Lear’s responsibility for his actions.

Lastly, this essay will discuss the nature of a person, specifically how King Lear acts on anger and how ones upbringing plays a significant role in how they act and respond, making them responsible for their actions, simply a character flaw very person has. The downfall of Lear starts at the beginning of the play, when he rejects his favourite daughter, and hands the kingdom to his other two daughters. In fact, fate backfires on Lear, and is given to the good, which includes Kent and Albany. When Lear says, “The terrors of the earth! You think I’ll weep. No, I’ll not weep”, he is saying that in spite of the punishments he has gotten, he is trying to not let it get to him, still managing to keep himself sane. King Lear is the only person who can be accountable for his own decisions. Lear tends to act very impulsively throughout the play, acting out of anger. Examples of this can be when he gets angry and banishes his loyal friends and family, cursing the Gods and even killing a guard. Lear has issues with controlling his rage, which contribute to his misfortunes. He refers to himself as a dragon at the opening of the book. If Lear had been able to manage and control his anger better, many mistakes could have been avoided. ”Peace, Kent! Come not between the dragon and his wrath.’ In this line he is referring to himself as a dragon. A dragon is a symbol of evil, representing acting on anger and someone in need of strength. King Lear is to blame for his own downfall, because he is temperamentally wrathful and arrogant. Lear dividing up his kingdom and resigning power, also factors into his downfall, decisions he made, and he is to blame for. He fails to realize he is to blame for any decision, first blaming his daughter Cordelia, next General and Regan, and lastly the Gods, referring to himself as a ‘poor old man’. He neglects to take blame for seeing his own faults.

Throughout the book King Lear by William Shakespeare, by analyzing King Lear we see how characters are responsible for their own actions, through poor judgement of character, blindness, and how these are connected to a person as a whole. William Shakespeare’s King Lear follows the philosophy that in the end, we all control our own destinies, resulting in each character being responsible for their actions. King Lear’s downfall is believed to be the fault of his two malicious daughters, Regan and Goneril. However, it is in fact the fault of King Lear himself for his misfortunes due to his poor judgement of character, blindness, and how he acts on his temporary anger. King Lear is responsible for any actions he made, and although he fails to realize it, he is to blame for his downfall.

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Analysis Of How Characters In Shakespeare’s King Lear Are Responsible For Their Actions. (2020, October 10). GradesFixer. Retrieved October 22, 2021, from
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