Shmoops Take On Shakespeares Tragedies: Hamlet, King Lear, And Othello

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There were plots by terrorists to blow up the Houses of Parliament in , adding to the unstable nature of England's political system at the time King Lear was written. King Lear, an elderly monarch, realising that time is against him, decides to split his kingdom into three and give each of his three daughters power and land - according to how much they love him.

The two older married daughters then begin to plot and weave their way towards power. They focus their attentions on young Edmund, bastard son to the good and faithful, but weak, Earl of Gloucester. Goneril and Regan know they have to work together if they're to get the better of Lear but fail to contain their mutual jealousy and hatred. Near the end Goneril poisons her sister and leaves the audience in no doubt of her quiet enjoyment of the fact. Did Regan deserve such a fate?

Well, perhaps.


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When the Duke of Cornwall tortures Gloucester and crudely gouges out his eyes who is it who pours scorn on the unfortunate man? Who is it who tells the blind Gloucester that it was Edmund who set things up against Edgar, Gloucester's true heir? King Lear eventually succumbs when he witnesses his beloved Cordelia hanged. In a famous final scene he sits next to her limp body imploring Edgar, Kent and Albany to look at her.

Shakespeare: King Lear - Summary and Analysis

I have found this to be the best all round production of Lear. Ian McKellen is superb, bringing depth and pathos to the role, and no actor matches him for timing and authenticity. Backed up by an able cast, and with director Trevor Nunn at the helm, all the ingredients are here. Look no further. Sylvestor McCoy as the Fool is a treat. I also loved the interview with Ian McKellen, who gives us his thoughts on the old King. Great for students as well as admirers. King Lear may well be already half mad by the time he asks his daughters for their love so he can give them lands to secure his kingdom's future.

Goneril and Regan seem pleased to see the back of their younger sister. They speak plainly of Lear's poor state of mind. Lear meanwhile confirms his madness by striking Goneril's steward Oswald, having the Fool 'teach' him the difference between a bitter fool and a sweet one, and turning the palace into a 'tavern and a brothel' according to Goneril. This opening act convinces us that the old King is approaching breakdown and that the two eldest daughters and their husbands are consciously planning devious moves in order to gain advantage and power.

It is a punishing challenge. In the first act Lear changes from a revered and respected monarch in total charge of affairs to an exasperated, anxious and angry father. From the actor's point of view controlling the energy in the opening scenes is vital - too much anger too quickly wouldn't work, so the emphasis has to be on emotional turmoil rather than red faced rage. Lear's ensuing breakdown and what might be called insanity should be displayed as deranged playfulness and profound disturbance. This is the downfall of a person used to complete authority, having to come to terms with old age, change, disobedience and helplessness.

Lear finds out what it's like to be an ordinary man, stripped of everything good. In the play Lear is 80 years old. This is why the role is best suited to experienced actors with a few lines on their face, a healthy white beard and enough experience to draw on so they don't mind playing someone half crazed! To comment on this article, you must sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

Complete list of Shakespeare Plays with short summary Chronologically

Many thanks for the comment Daisy M. Lear is a play charged with emotion from the opening scene - there's no escape for the audience! A true classic. You did an impressive job with your article. The research. Thanks for publishing this Hub. Other product and company names shown may be trademarks of their respective owners.

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Lear's epic struggle to come to terms with his loss of power creates a tense, moving drama that is disturbing yet magnetic. Family break up, emotional upheaval and manipulating power mad individuals make for a classic of the stage. Add to that jealousy, murder and banishment and the scene is set for a timeless tale of humanity that has intrigued audiences for centuries. It is still highly relevant for modern times. But it is Lear who ultimately captivates, raging against the gods, undergoing a personal transformation, questioning his existence and his place in a changing world.

Lear discovers the truth about his authority, how he cultivated a court of flatterers and yes men, and how he was at fault when dividing his kingdom into three, a decision which ultimately undermines his rule and furthers his madness. King Lear - Themes Family and personal issues such as loyalty, power, trust, break up, emotional break down.

Violence, torture, murder. Deception, political spin. The collapse of a system. War and national transformation. Morality,spirituality; religious ideas versus free will.

Shakespeare's Mature Tragedies

The Basic Story of King Lear King Lear, an elderly monarch, realising that time is against him, decides to split his kingdom into three and give each of his three daughters power and land - according to how much they love him. When the youngest daughter, Cordelia, refuses to express her love for her father in contrast to the flattery shown by the two older sisters, Goneril and Regan, Lear flies into a ranting rage. He banishes Cordelia, verbally abuses her, hardly believing that the daughter he loved best could respond in such an outrageous fashion.

Will he live to regret his impulsive behaviour? Thou'lt come no more, Never, never, never, never,never.

Relationship to Shakespeare's Other Plays

Buy Now. Brief Summary Of Act I King Lear may well be already half mad by the time he asks his daughters for their love so he can give them lands to secure his kingdom's future. The weather is changing. Aging Lear wishes to split his kingdom into three and share it amongst his daughters. The BBC plays are widely available in public school libraries and in most video stores. There seem to be new film adaptations of Shakespeare every day. You can also go directly to the Looking for Richard material. His Hamlet is unusual in being a full-text version; the play is almost never performed in its entirety.

The post-Vietnam Branagh and the Olivier are not as different in approach as you might expect.


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Branagh plays Iago. Twelfth Night , directed by Trevor Nunn is picturesque and helps sort out the play's romantic confusions. Titus , directed by Julie Taymore captures the black humor of that violent play. No version of The Tempest does the play justice, although the science fiction version, Forbidden Planet is an interesting oddity. The site is friendly and easy to negotiate, and the discussion seems pretty high quality. Interesting questions and answers.


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