'King Lear is a play without any hope.' Do you agree with this statement?

Topics: Behavior

Shakespeare’s King Lear is a play that focuses on the close relationships of certain characters. Some of these characters are good, while some of them are evil. These characters raise and sink the audience’s hope throughout the play. In King Lear, there are some aspects of the play that appear to have no hope. This is shown through families being destroyed, madness, and the death of certain characters. However, some characters, including Lear, Kent, Edgar and Cordelia show there are signs of hope, through their realisations of their mistakes and their loyalty.

As soon as the play begins, Shakespeare immediately gives the impression that this is a play without hope. In the first scene an unstable Lear abdicates his throne, leaving the country to his daughters. Two of the sisters speak in prose at the end of the first scene. Speaking in prose usually means a character is not very well educated. However, in this occasion Shakespeare probably used the prose to show the audience not that they were low in society, but they are of low character, which highlights their character faults.

The sisters only speak in prose though when they are alone, which is where they reveal their true selves. Shakespeare uses language throughout the play to help the audience distinguish between characters qualities and their true intentions. Another example of this is when Shakespeare highlights the honourable characters by making them speak in rhyming couplets.

When Goneril and Regan were asked to make a speech they said what Lear wanted them to say not what they really thought.

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This meant the sister’s words were exaggerated and very insincere, though they still manage to fool Lear. In the first scene though, the most important thing that shows the play has no hope, is when Lear banishes Cordelia and Kent, probably the two most loyal people in the country. In this scene Lear is also displaying sign of blindness, which suggests that worse is yet to come. The hints of blindness are shown on lines 153 when it says

“The true blank of thine eye.”

Also on line 119 Lear says

“…Hence, and avoid my sight!”

Blindness plays a huge part in the play and is one of the things that make King Lear a play without hope. Though it is Gloucester’s blindness and Lear’s madness that makes them realize their tremendous errors. The audience may also see the premature abdication of the king as hopeless, as during that period of time they believed God chose the king and abdicating would be interfering with the natural forces. Therefore no good can come of Goneril and Regan gaining control of the country.

Through the events of scene one, the audience sees an example of a close family being torn apart. Not only is an example of close families being torn apart shown when King Lear banishes Cordelia but also when Edmund manipulates his father and brother to gain power. At the same time the families were being torn apart, so was the nation. This is because the sisters were more concerned about increasing their power hold, which descends the kingdom into civil strife. This was probably because the sisters, who were running the country, were fighting against each other, which eventually lead the country to be divided and the country going into a state of war. I feel there is no sign of hope as families were consumed by power, which led them to destroy each other. Edmund and the sisters betray their families, which break up the families beyond repair. It is true that Regan, Goneril and Edmund join forces for a short while before letting jealousy and hatred get the better of them, but this union is not a sign of hope, as the sisters and Edmund unite to become an ‘unholy trinity’, which is worrying for their enemies, as there seemed no possible way to defeat them. While the sisters are sidetracked by their own problems the stable and peaceful country falls apart as disorder engulfs the realm.

On the other hand, near the end of the play there is a small sign of hope, when Lear meets up with Cordelia and she forgives him. Even after all that Lear has done to Cordelia; she still shows forgiveness by praying for him, to restore her father’s senses. When Lear awakes, he humbles himself before Cordelia, which makes the audience realise that Lear has learnt his lesson and become a better person because of it. During the storm Lear had to confront his failings and while witnessing the powerful forces of the natural world, Lear realised how insignificant he is in the grand scheme of things. This led Lear to reprioritise his values. Lear shows how much he regrets what he did to Cordelia by falling on his knees, which is very humbling for Lear. Lear shows how humble he has become by saying

“When though dost ask me blessing, I’ll kneel down

And ask of thee forgiveness. So we’ll live…

This is the point that shows hope as Lear has got what he most wants; to be reunited with his daughter. This leads to Lear being treated like he was king again, as the words that are addressed to him were respectful. The audience’s feeling of hope is heightened when the characters kneel before Lear and he is treated as a powerful monarch. However, news of the battle at the end of the scene, suggests the harmony that is achieved here is already under threat. This could have shattered the audience’s hope once again.

One of the strongest signs of hope in the play is shown in Cordelia. She is true and honest, which is shown when she refuses to take part in the competition to gain her part of the country. She believes that falsely flattering Lear is wrong, which shows that she loves her father with more depth and sincerity than her self absorbed sisters. Instead, Cordelia says

“Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave

My heart into my mouth. I love your majesty

According to my bond; nor more nor less”

This shows that even though she wants to obey her father, she cannot, as she wants to stay true to her beliefs. Unfortunately, staying true to her beliefs led her to be banished from the kingdom, as Lear could not read between the lines. Even though Cordelia has been banished, there is still hope for her, as Shakespeare rewards her with the king of France. He still accepts her as his bride, as he can see how good she is. This is a glimmer of hope for the audience as Shakespeare has introduced a character that is good hearted, which is well needed, as there is plenty of morally deprived members of society in the same scene. On the other hand Cordelia being banished is also a sign of no hope as it has disrupted the societal order, which inevitably will result in the country being in chaos. Characters similar to Cordelia are inserted in the play to give the audience hope that the evil characters will eventually get what they deserve. I feel though that throughout the play the loyal characters are often undermined by those evil characters, which have the most power. Shakespeare painted in Cordelia as an image of light in the darkness for the audience. The fact that Cordelia dies in the last scene, seems to take away any of the hope the audience may have begun to feel. Therefore, this play can be considered a play without hope.

However, towards the end of the play, there were some positive signs of hope. This is because the characters that have schemed and manipulated throughout the play, come face to face with France’s army. The outcome of this is that the sisters and Edmund get their just desserts, as all three of them end up dead. The jealously and rivalry between the two sisters eventually led to their downfall, as Goneril poisons Regan when she finds out Regan plans to marry Edmund. Regan’s poisoning comes as a shock, as the first clue the readers get that there is anything wrong is when Regan says

“Lady, I am not well; else I should answer

From a full-flowing stomach.”

The fact that it ends up with evil fighting evil gives hope to the audience that evil can never triumph forever, as unlike good infighting is always their undoing. This proves to the audience that eventually good will prevail, as good can work together in harmony. In my opinion Goneril, Regan and Edmund’s deaths seems to be richly deserved and is only suitable punishment for all harm they have done. This is a sign of hope, because after those three characters die, order can now be restored in the country and all the trouble they caused can be mended. This is also a sign of hope as all the people that have sinned have certainly been rightfully punished.

All the hope that is accomplished throughout the play is shortly dissolved after Shakespeare kills off both good and bad characters. Though it is a sign of hope when the sisters die, any hope raised is demolished when Cordelia, Lear and Gloucester die. This is because Lear and Gloucester have learnt the error of their way and learnt from their mistakes. Therefore it could be argued the play has not achieved anything. Lear and Gloucester are also willing to make up for their wrong doing and becoming better people on the whole. However, what is the point in them learning all of this, if in the end they never get to live to become better people? This also shows a lack of hope for the country. If Lear had lived he would have gone back on the throne and had become a better king because of what he experienced throughout the end of the play. At the beginning of the play he was spoilt and used to no one disagreeing with him. However he would have probably been more considerate to the poor people of the country. This is shown when Lear has been reduced to madness and has later been reunited with Cordelia as he says

“I am a very foolish fond old man…

Yet I am doubtful; for I am mainly ignorant…”

This to the audience shows that he is humble and that he honestly regrets his past decisions. When Lear dies however so does the hope for the audience of the country being reunited.

The only hope at the end of the play is that Edgar is still alive. Hope is heightened when at the end of the play Edgar becomes king. This is a sign of true hope as the audience already consider him to be a good person, as he remained loyal to his father throughout the time he was living as poor Tom. Edgar has also experienced life on both sides of society. He has also proved himself to be a worthy king, by suffering such hardships and remaining strong throughout. Edgar would also be able to help out the poor of the country, which would be an improvement on the previous monarchs as they lived a pampered life, which did not make them great monarchs. With this new monarch the audience can finally feel that the problems that occurred in the play can be put in the past and the country can be finally united once again.

In conclusion, King Lear is infused with notions of hope, though they were often short lived and other times were only illusions. However justice seems to have been served at the end. There was plenty of evidence of King Lear being a play with no hope, but the ending manages to give the audience hope for the future. Shakespeare has shown in the play that evil will always be present and there is no hope of that changing, but eventually good will be dominant in the world of King Lear. So to sum up King Lear is a great tragedy that is full of injustice at the beginning and the restoring of justice towards the end.

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'King Lear is a play without any hope.' Do you agree with this statement?. (2018, Dec 18). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/paper-on-king-lear-is-a-play-without-any-hope-do-you-agree-with-this-statement/

'King Lear is a play without any hope.' Do you agree with this statement?
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