King Lear is the main character in the Shakespearean tragedy also named ‘King Lear’.
Shakespeare took the main plot line of an aged monarch, abused by his children from a folk tale that appeared first in written form in the 12th century and was based on spoken stories that originated much further into the Middle Ages.
Through the play King Lear goes through many different personalities, and also he experiences a lot of people sinning against him. While this is so, King Lear also sins against many people too.
In this essay I am going to find out whether King Lear is a man more sinned against than sinning himself. King Lear actually says this in act 3, scene 2, lines 59-62. The quote for this is…
“Hast practised on man’s life; close pent-up guilts
Rive your concealing continents, and cry
These dreadful summoners grace, I am a man
More sinned against than sinning”
I am going to look at the sins that King Lear has committed, and also what sins Lear has experienced against himself.
Looking at both of these aspects thoroughly I am going to then write a conclusion as to whether I think King Lear is a man more sinned against than sinning.
At the moment I think that King Lear is actually a man more sinned against than sinning. I am firstly going to research all the sins he has committed, and then secondly research all the things that he has had sinned against him. After I have done both of these tasks, I am then going to see whether I still think the above prediction is true…
The first sin Lear committed was that Lear was going to give each of his daughters: Cordelia, Regan and Goneril part of his kingdom if they told him how much they loved him, and to on the whole flatter him.
Because of this, the first sin that King Lear committed then was casting out his own daughter Cordelia who he has said to have had favoured the most out of the three of them as she wouldn’t do so. Instead of Cordelia saying she loved Lear, as much as he wanted her to, her answer to his question was,
“According to my bonds”.
She means by this that she loves Lear as much as she has to, and no more and no less. The quote where Lear casts her out is in Act 1, scene 1, lines 111-115, and is shown below…
“From whom we do exist and cease to be,
Here I disclaim all my paternal care,
Propinquity and property of blood,
And as a stranger to my heart and me
Hold thee from this for ever.”
This quote shows very well that King Lear casts away his daughter Cordelia. Lear is in essence saying here that he doesn’t want Cordelia as a daughter anymore, and is going to regard her as a stranger to his heart.
I think that King Lear overreacted a lot in this situation, and it was very petty of him to banish Cordelia just because she wouldn’t say how much she loved him, to make him feel good. My first impressions of Lear so far are that he is very selfish, and over reacts in certain situations.
After Lear had banished Cordelia he then says in the play that she was the one he loved the most. I think he says this because he has realised what he has lost by his over reacting nature, and he is finally realising it. The fact that he treats his daughters unequally is the sin in this situation. The reality that he favours Cordelia to Regan and Goneril is a sin, and he shouldn’t favour one daughter over another. The quote for Lear loving Cordelia most is in Act 1, scene 1 lines 120-124. The quote is shown below…
“Come not between the dragon and his wrath.
I loved her most, and though to set my rest
On her kind nursery. Hence, and avoid my sight!
So be my grave my peace, as here I give
Her father’s heart from her!”
This quote evidently shows that Lear classes Cordelia as his favourite, and that he loves her the most. Basically he is saying here that he can’t believe what he has done.
So favouring one of his daughters was another one of Lear’s sins.
The next sin that Lear commits is also very early on in the play in Act 1, scene 1, lines 175-180. The sin that Lear commits this time is he casts out his nobleman Kent. The quote for this is shown below…
LEAR: “Upon our kingdom: if on the tenth say following
Thy banish’d trunk be found in our domains
The moment is they death. Away! By Jupiter,
This shall not be revok’d”
KENT: “Fare thee well, king; sith thus thou wilt appear”
This quote is where King Lear banishes Kent, and Kent says goodbye to the King. King Lear banishes Kent because Kent states what he thinks to Lear, and Lear doesn’t like it. He in addition advises Lear to not over react, and that he shouldn’t have banished and disowned Cordelia. Furthermore Kent says to Lear that he wont be able to cope without him and Lear doesn’t like this.
Even though if I was Lear I would be upset if someone told me all what Kent said, I wouldn’t banish the person because of it. Again like when he banished Cordelia I think Lear is over reacting and being very petty in situations, where he doesn’t need to be.
When King Lear stayed at Regan’s house, he brought all his knights with him, which was unnecessary, and Regan wasn’t happy about it. When she preaches this problem, Lear is spiteful towards her. This happens in Act 2, scene 4, lines 161-164…
“You nimble lightning’s, dart your blinding flames
Into her scornful eyes! Infect her beauty,
You fen-suck’d fogs, drawn by the powerful sun,
To fall and blister her!”
And also in act 2, scene 4 lines 218-222…
“But yet thou art my flesh, my blood, my daughter;
Or rather a disease that’s in my flesh,
Which I must needs call mine; thou art a boil,
A plague-sore, or embossed carbuncle,
In my corrupted blood.”
What Lear said in this situation was unkind, and shouldn’t really have been said to someone by their father. He says he wants the elements to make her ugly, and also that she is like a disease to him, which is inside his own body. Lear said all this because Regan said to him that it was unfair of him to expect her to accommodate all his knights, and he doesn’t really need them anyway. I think that Lear was very spiteful to Regan here, and really he shouldn’t have said it to his own daughter.
Lear was also spiteful to his other daughter Goneril because of the same reason, to do with his knights. This happened in Act 1, scene 2, lines 259-265. The quote is shown on the next page…
“Hear, Nature, hear! Dear Goddess, hear!
Suspend thy purpose, if thou didst intend
To make this creature fruitful!
Into her womb convey sterility!
Dry up in her organs of increase,
And from her derogate body never spring
A babe to honour her!”
This speech Lear also says because Goneril was complaining about how many knights he has got. This again is very spiteful just like what he said to his Regan, and definitely uncalled for under the circumstances.
King Lear may have been spiteful to his daughters because he is too proud to just give up some of his knights. This is a sin in itself. So as Lear is too proud, he is then spiteful to his daughters because of it.
Another reason he is spiteful to his daughters over his knights could be because he judges everything materialistically. This could also be true about the flattery also, as he feels he needed flattery to see whether his daughters really loved him. The fact that he does judge things materialistically is also another sin Lear has committed.
The fact that King Lear gets very stubborn and angry over the talk about how many knights he’s got, also shows that he doesn’t understand the problems that other people have. Lear didn’t take into consideration the fact that there wasn’t a lot of room for these knights to stay, and also they would have had to cater for them also. This clearly shows that Lear doesn’t understand the problems that other people have, which is also a sin that Lear has committed.
From the play you can clearly see that King Lear doesn’t really know his daughters very well. He thinks that they are all lovely at the beginning, and by making them flatter him he gives them part of his kingdom. Even though his daughters flatter him they don’t really mean it, and during the play they plot against Lear. Even though you could class this as him being sinned against, you could also class it as him sinning by not knowing what his daughters were really like deep down inside.
From all the evidence I have collected, I have decided that Lear has sinned a lot of people during the play. I cannot do a full conclusion at this time, as I haven’t discussed the sins that people have committed against him, so I cannot answer the statement as to whether King Lear is a man more sinned against than sinning, just yet.
I am now going to research, and write about the sins that have been committed against King Lear. Even though as I have just written about King Lear committed a lot of sins against people himself, he also had sins committed against him. Once I have written about these, I will be able to write a full conclusion about whether I think King Lear, is a man more sinned against than sinning…
In the play the first sin being committed against Lear, was when his daughters go back on their word. Regan, and Goneril say to Lear that they will look after him when he is older, and Regan and Goneril right at the beginning of the play tell him how much they love him, and then behave in a manner completely the contradictory. The first real sin however was when Goneril threatens Lear that she is going to cut down his knights by half, and basically means is he doesn’t go ahead with this, then he should get out. This is shown in Act 1, scene 4, lines 230-235. This quote is shown on the following page…
“For instant remedy; be then desired
By her, that else will take the thing she begs,
A little to disquantity your train;
And the remainders, that shall still depend,
To be such men as may besort you age,
Which know themselves and you.”
This quote shows that Goneril is saying that Lear has to reduce the size of his knights, and practically threatens him. After she says this to Lear, Lear leaves. This means that Goneril has sinned against her own father, and should have reconciled with him, if she truly did love him, like she said she did at the beginning of the play.
When Lear leaves Goneril’s he goes to Regan’s, but she also turns him away so that she can avoid him. When Lear leaves to go to Regan’s from Goneril’s, he is hoping for better treatment yet this isn’t the case, when he gets there. Regan sees King Lear as a burden and doesn’t want anything to do with him. Yet morally she should, as she is his daughter, and should act dutifully towards him. In this respect Regan has also sinned against her father. This is shown in Act 2, scene 4, lines 151-155. Below is the quote where Regan turns Lear away…
LEAR: “On my knees I beg
That you’ll vouchsafe me raiment, bed, and food.”
REGAN: “Good sir, no more; these are unsightly tricks.
Return you to my sister.”
From these quotes you can see that Regan is turning away Lear, and trying to get him to go back to Goneril’s. All Lear is asking for is a place to stay, and even his own daughter turns him away. This clearly shows that Regan has sinned against Lear. Regan and Goneril have plotted it between both of them to not let Lear have anywhere to stay. Goneril sent a letter to Regan saying to turn Lear away just like she had. So basically both Regan and Goneril both sin against their own father.
The next sin against Lear is also from his daughters Regan and Goneril. This time they push Lear too far, when they see that he is distressed. This is very hurtful, and uncaring for daughters to do this to their own father, especially when he needed their help.
The sisters push Lear too far by, Regan says to Lear in the play that he should go back with Goneril to her home, as she isn’t able to look after him. By saying this Regan and Goneril are provoking Lear to get mad and upset, which they achieve. They both then go on to provoke Lear more by saying that he doesn’t need all his knights, and they don’t see why he cant just have a smaller amount of them. This angers Lear even more. In the end Lear says he is going to leave, and is very, angry over what Regan and Goneril have said. This is shown in Act 2, scene 4, lines 275-284…
“No, you unnatural hags,
I will have such revenges on you both
That all the world shall- I will do such things,
What they are, yet I know not, but they shall be
The terrors of the earth. You think I’ll weep;
No, I’ll not weep:
I have full cause of weeping, but this heart
Shall break into a hundred thousand flaws
Or ere I’ll weep. Oh Fool! I shall go mad.”
This quote shows well that Regan and Goneril have achieved what they set out to do, which was to push Lear too far when he is distressed and needs them. This shows that Regan and Goneril have sinned against their father, as they didn’t help him out when he needed them, but instead made him angry, and even more distressed, than he started off.
By Regan and Goneril pushing Lear too far, they eventually drive him away. His own daughters drive him away, and make Lear believe that he doesn’t need them in him life anymore. They actually drive him away; by they don’t show their father the love that he should dutifully get. Instead of showing a passion towards him, they turn cold and heartless towards their own father, which makes him believe that the only thing there is to do it to go away.
So driving Lear away is another sin that Regan and Goneril have done against Lear.
After all these happenings to do with his daughters Lear eventually goes mad, and is found walking about naked in a storm. Gloucester is the person that finds Lear yet has been commanded by Cornwall, not to help Lear in any way. As Gloucester doesn’t help Lear when he is out in the storm this is a sin against him. The part in the play where Gloucester said he has been commanded not to help Lear is in act 3, scene 3, lines 1-5…
“Alack, Alack! Edmund, I like not this unnatural
dealing. When I desired their leave that I might pity him, they took from me the use of mine own house, charged me,
on pain of perpetual displeasure, neither to speak to him,
entreat for him, or any way sustain him.”
This quote shows well that Gloucester has been commanded not to help out King Lear. Even though Gloucester has been commanded not to help Lear, he still should have helped someone out that needs it. Especially knowing what state Lear was in. So as he didn’t help out Lear, this means that he has in fact sinned against him.
When Cordelia hears about her father’s problems she comes back with her husbands French army, and a battle starts between her and the forces of Goneril, Regan, Edmund, and Albany. In the end Cordelia’s army is defeated, and her and King Lear are taken captive, and put into prison. King Lear by then is very happy to be reunited with his daughter Cordelia. Everything seems to be going well despite them being in prison, till Edmund sends his men to kill Cordelia. When this happens Lear collapses into complete madness and dies of a broken heart. This means that in the end nearly everyone on Regan and Goneril’s sides sinned against Lear, as killing the daughter he loved, and the one that truly cared for him, was the ultimate sin. The part where Lear dies of a broken heart is in act 5, scene 3, lines 304-310…
“And my poor fool is hanged! No, no, no life!
Why should a dog, a horse, a rat, have a life,
And thou no breath at all? Thou’lt come no more,
Never, never, never, never, never!
Pray you, undo this button; thank you, sir.
Do you see this? Look on her, look, her lips,
Look there, look there! [Dies]
This quote evidently shows that Lear dies of a broken heart, when Cordelia is killed. I believe that this is the biggest sin committed through-out the whole play, the fact that Lear dies because killing the only person that Lear loved, and who made him sane, is the ultimate sin.
In conclusion I feel that neither Lear was a man more sinned against than sinning, than a man sinning more than sinned against. I feel that no one really in the play sinned the most, including Lear. Lear, and almost everyone else in the play sinned against someone at some point. I think that they are all as bad as each other, and many of the sins on both sides, were for very petty reasons, which the characters over reacted to in certain situations.
Although I do feel that Lear was sinned against, more than sinning himself in some way, over the fact that Cordelia was killed. I believe she was mainly killed out of spitefulness, and it was the biggest sin committed throughout the entire play, and for Lear as I have already stated, was the ultimate sin that could have been committed on him. This sin in the end led him to die of a broken heart.
So in some ways I feel Lear didn’t sin more, or was more sinned against, yet in other ways I think that he was more sinned against, in the respect that he had the ultimate sin played against him.