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King Lear- a Complex Tragic Hero?

  • Date Submitted: 12/13/2010 01:46 PM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 57.8 
  • Words: 1028
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A tragic hero fits many moulds of characters. On the other hand a character fits many moulds of a tragic hero. King Lear’s flaws make him human, if the protagonist were a flawless hero, there would be no tragedy. Aristotle was a huge influence on the knowledge of what defines a tragic character. He lived in the 4th century BC and grew to be very significant as a thinker. Many writers such as Shakespeare based their own tragic hero’s on his ideas. I’m going to compare some of his definitions to the character of King Lear to expose what makes Lear the tragic hero.
In the words of Aristotle “The tragic hero is a character of noble stature and has greatness.” Before watching the play, you can already see in the eyes of Aristotle that King Lear is going to be the tragic hero due to his status. By beginning the play with King Lear distributing his power and wealth to his daughters, Shakespeare seems to be taking away the character’s power already. It could also be argued that this scene is foreshadowing the death of King Lear with the breakdown of his greatness. This is supported by the line, “while we unburthen’d crawl toward death,” which could also be described as dramatic irony, because the character is unknowingly facing his own death. Alongside this, by naming the play after the main character Shakespeare makes certain that the death itself is made more tragic, because it is usually not normal for the main character to die. At the same time by knowing that King Lear is the main character, we as an audience focus more of our attention on understanding the character, making his death more tragic.
Act 1 begins with King Lear asking his daughters to express how much they love him, “Which of you shall we say doth love us most?” The word “us” used in this quotation implies that King Lear wants to know which of his daughters loves the kingdom more, rather than just him. This could show that King Lear is not in fact a person of his own, but just a symbol of the kingdom...


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