Shakespeare’s King Lear Essay
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In Shakespeare’s King Lear, Nature and Fortune governs the lives of all characters. Every character has his or her turning point where they either travel to the top or bottom of the wheel of fortune. In Act 5, scene 3, lines 153-179, Edgar appears in full Armour and challenges Edmund to a trial by combat after Albany accuses Edmund of treason. This takes place after the French forces was defeated by the English and after King Lear was sent to jail with Cordelia.
During this passage, Edgar accuses Edmund of wicked deeds Edmund has committed throughout the play. Edgar fights Edmund and leaves him wounded; and this serves as a turning point for both Edgar and Edmund.
For both characters, this fight is a symbol of the wheel of fortune, as Edgar climbs back up to the top while Edmund falls to the bottom. This passage serves as the turning point for Edmund because after this passage, he is wounded, and approaches death. For the first time in the play, Edmund shows signs of regret and goodness, he repents for his wicked deeds by doing some good before his death, that is, he tells the others about where he sent Cordelia and Lear. As for Edgar, his fortune changes because he transforms from a homeless beggar to an armored knight, challenging Edmund and regaining his titles and honor.
The theme of order and chaos also dominates this passage. This was because, Edgar, the rightful inheritor of Gloucester was robbed of his titles and honor. And in this passage, he leaves the life of a beggar and comes back to reclaim his titles and honor. In Lines 156-158, Edgar shows his nobility and status as a knight, “Behold, it is my privilege, the privilege of mine honors, my oath, and my profession”. He finally reclaims his honor and status after losing his titles and rights to Edmund. Moreover, to show that Edgar has reclaimed his noble status, one may look at Edgar’s speech, his speech has changed, becoming more refined and fit for a noble then compared to when he was a beggar.
Edgar’s nobility is again emphasized in lines 171-172, “But since thy outside looks so fair and warlike, and that thy tongue some say of breeding breathes”. This passage is an restoration of order because Edgar; a noble by blood who was stripped away from his titles, now gains back his titles and honor which were rightfully his according to the chain of being. Again, to show that this passage not only serves as a turning point for the characters, but also a restoration of order. Edmund was defeated and his plots were revealed, which lead to his titles being stripped away and given back to the proper owner, Edgar.
As mentioned above, the passage showed the wheel of fortune turning. This is simply because Edmund’s fortune is finally fading. Up to now, nobody has publicly accused Edmund for the treachery he has committed. In fact, he escaped blame from many deceitful acts up to now. However, the wheel has turned and Edmund’s treacherous deeds are revealed publicly in this passage, lines 161-165, “False to thy gods, thy brother, and thy father, Conspirant ‘gainst this high illustrious prince, And from th’ extremest upward of thy head To the descent and dust below thy foot” . This is a sign that Edmund’s luck and success may finally come to an end, as he is being challenged for the first time.
In conclusion, this passage is important because it acts as an turning point in the story, where the wheel of fortune begin to turn, stripping away luck from one to another. This passage is also a turning point for the characters, as Edgar begins to regain what is rightfully his and bring order back to the kingdom while Edmund’s luck being to fade, heading towards the bottom of the wheel.