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Shakespeare’s Tragedy of King Lear to Kurosawa’s Ran Essay

The film RAN and the play The Tragedy of King Lear can be related to each other in many ways. Kurosawa was able to produce a film that was a valid, effective and relevant portrayal of Shakespeare’s play. The first way is in how they relate to each other on a plot based theme. The second way is how they can both be analyzed to themes such as; family, betrayal, loyalty, and selfishness. The third way that they relate to each other is how RAN uses Japanese drama to portray a Shakespearean tragedy. Kurosawa, the director of RAN made a very effective and valid film on interpreting the key points of The Tragedy of King Lear. The two works give lessons to the audience, and these lessons are learned once finishing studies on RAN and The Tragedy of King Lear.

The characters for the play and the film are very similar, first you have King Lear who is represented by The Great Lord Hidetora in the film, Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia are represented by Taro, Jiro, and Saburo respectively. Kent, the King’s loyal advisor is represented by Tango, and Cornwall and Albany are represented by Lady Kaede, and Lady Sue respectively.

The first comparison of RAN and The Tragedy of King Lear is how plot is similar. The plot is very similar in both works as RAN is based on The Tragedy of King Lear so of course there will be similarities. The plot is how a family can be torn apart by the powers of; greed, stubbornness, and betrayal. In both works the family of King Lear, Regan, Goneril and Cordelia are torn apart, eventually all members of the family die. The message these works are trying to get across is how important family is; whether it be in the 17th century Britain, or 20th century Japan. Even though the two works are separated by three centuries, they are still being used as an example to students everywhere.

The themes of betrayal, selfishness, and loyalty are all present in both RAN and The Tragedy of King Lear. In RAN the character Tango stays loyal to Hidetoro throughout the entire film. This shows true devotion to Hidetoro on Tango’s part. In The Tragedy of King Lear, Kent stays loyal to King Lear. Kent and Tango both stay loyal to their King or Master. Kent and Tango can be seen as symbols of family for Lear and Hidetora because they stay with
their leader, and even when they know he is wrong, they still back him up. These are qualities that a family shows each other, however in both RAN and The Tragedy of King Lear the protagonist’s family deserts them, and the protagonist deserts his family. The theme of betrayal is used in both works and betrayal is a big theme for this particular story because without betrayal the lesson can not be learned for the audience. Characters that betray in King Lear include; Regan, Goneril, and Edmund.

The common trait these betrayers share is the fact that they betrayed their family. The theme selfishness and stubbornness can be seen in the film RAN and the characters of Hidetoro, Taro, and Jiro. Hidetoro is seen in the stubborn characteristic because he will not go to Saburo for help after he banished him. Hidetoro will not ask for his forgiveness because he is afraid that he will be thrown away from Saburo just like he had been by Taro, and Jiro. Hidetoro believes this even though Saburo is the only one who will accept him and love him like a father. Taro and Jiro can represent selfishness in RAN because after they had lied to Hidetoro for a great position of power, they cast Hidetoro away like he was not their father. Taro and Jiro felt threatened from Hidetoro’s presence because they felt he would try and take back the reigns as the highest being.

The director of RAN is Mr. Kurosawa; he tried to portray Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of King Lear in a form of Japanese Drama. The genres of the two works are Tragedy and Drama. The two genres can be related, and Kurosawa did it very effectively. Kurosawa made some changes to his production however. He changed the gender of King Lear’s daughters. This was effective in its own way because it gives Kurosawa a chance to give a bigger power role to these characters. A relationship between RAN and The Tragedy of King Lear that was very accurate was the scene in which Hidetora and King Lear go crazy. It was impressive how Kurosawa gave the Fool a good role to show how smart and dedicated he was to keeping his master safe.

Kurosawa’s interpretation of King Lear was valid and relevant to Shakespeare’s King Lear through how he portrayed the plot relation, the themes of; family, betrayal, loyalty, and selfishness, and how he made his version into a Japanese drama. RAN must be shown when people are studying The Tragedy of King Lear because it not only helps understand what is happening on a visual aspect, but it gives you a background on how the two can be related. The lessons to be learned from both RAN and The Tragedy of King Lear are; staying true to yourself, your family, and to see that not everyone will be telling you the truth. These lessons that the Shakespeare and Kurosawa are trying to portray in their work can be detrimental towards how you live your life. It is putting your trust in the right people, knowing that no one is more important than your family, and finally that you must know what the right thing to do is for not just yourself but everyone effected by it.

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