There heighten the tragedy. In this text

March 1, 2019 General Studies

There are many aspects of tragedy that we see relevant in Act 1 of “King Lear”. Such as: contest of power, order to disorder, the creation of chaos and affecting the lives of others and language to heighten the tragedy. In this text these tragic features compile to show the suffering and development of certain characters and the way in which these aspects of tragedy make the play exactly what it is. Whilst some aspects of tragedy are absent, this can be just as significant as its presence because it can hint at the exploration of this theme later on as a consequence of a character’s actions.
An aspect of tragedy present in Act 1 is the ‘Contest of power’ that we see between Lear’s three daughters: Goneril, Regan and Cordelia. It is also here that Lear’s hubris is dramatised in his desire to hear his daughters compete for a part of his Kingdom. This demand triggers the contest between Goneril and Regan as they attempt to outperform each other in this task in hopes to receive a bountiful share of the Kingdom. They approach Lear with elaborate comments about how much they love him including: dearer than “eye-sight, space and liberty”, a declaration in which is trite and cliché but nevertheless confirms Goneril’s share of the Kingdom. In addition to this Regan attempts to gain an advantage over Goneril by expressing that she feels the exact same and more and that Goneril “comes too short”, which, in turn links with the contest of power between them as she is identifying Goneril’s flaw in that she hasn’t said enough and she knows she can do better than her. This contest of power is an aspect of tragedy because we know from reference to another of Shakespeare’s tragedies for example, “Macbeth”, that in regards to impending control and power this corrupts the mind and can instigate conspiring and immoral acts to get what they want. Something which the audience may expect to see later on as they were intelligent enough to flatter Lear at the beginning of Act 1, and although it was empty flattery, it shows that they both have the mind to deceive others to get what they want.
Another aspect of tragedy which we see very early on in Act 1 is the ‘Significance of violence and revenge’ in Scene 1 when Lear’s youngest daughter, Cordelia, refuses to shower him with divine compliments and value her love for her father. Cordelia’s reluctance to be as insincere as her sisters results in a furious rage on Lear’s part which sparks his sudden disgust and hatred towards her. The arrogance that Lear displays here results in him: disowning Cordelia, continuing to hugely insult her and make defamatory comments of her character to advertise her as damaged goods to her two suitors, the King Of France and Duke of Burgundy. As an audience we could perceive this as revenge for refusing to declare her love for him as we know that he would never usually say these things because Lear “loved her most”. For example: Lear shows his change of heart when pricing Cordelia to Burgundy and asking ‘what in the least will you require’ and informing us that “her price is fall’n”. These quotes show the audience that Lear wants to give as little as possible for Cordelia because she didn’t give him what he wanted and shows that she was once held in high regard but now she has very little value because of the betrayal in his eyes. This specific point of Scene 1 shows revenge because of the retaliation from Lear after he feels she has betrayed him and proceeds to retract his generous offer. It shows elements of tragedy because of the misunderstanding and dramatic irony experienced by the audience knowing that Lear disowned his only daughter with honourable intentions.
Thirdly, an aspect of tragedy found in Act 1 of “King Lear” is “Language to heighten the tragedy”. An example of where this is used is when Kent is attempting to subdue Lear’s anger and tries to convince him that Cordelia does love him; even more so than Goneril and Regan. With his insight here we know that Kent is desperate for Lear to stop being bitter and unreasonable as he is a huge supporter of Cordelia and is doing what he can to reason with the King. For example, as Kent is pleading for Lear to see sense, he encourages him to “see better”. Vision and blindness becomes one of the play’s most renowned symbols as it reaches for the metaphorical blindness that Lear is showing in terms of seeing people for what they truly are. Kent implies that Lear is “blind” to the truth.


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