King Lear's Emotional Stages Throughout the play King Lear, Shakespeare portrays King Lear as a normal human being with a very complex and fragile character. In this very sentimental play, Shakespeare places Lear through the worst anguish of his life (Bruhl 312). The anguish Lear goes through helps him finally realize that human nature is not always loving, caring, and giving as his kingship disguises him to think. One may describe the mental states Lear goes through as myriad mental states. Throughout the play Lear reaches many realizations through his mistakes and symbolic madness, people's wrong doings toward him, and his return to sanity through redemptive salvation. Lear makes many mistakes at the end of his lifetime.
The want of an untroubled life of second childhood without the responsibilities of a well respected king is the main mistake Lear makes. The slippage of his self-image finally causes him to go mad (Dominic 233). Before Lear goes mad he realizes the state in which he is turning when he states, 'My wits begin to turn.' ; (III. ii. 67). Lear's suffering is primarily mental and climaxes when Regan throws him out in the storm (Bruhl 317).
The main mistakes appears 'as he [Lear] enters the phantasmagoria [fantastic imagery, as in a dream] of his madness'; (Halio 192). This type of thinking makes Lear become mentally unstable. One can attribute King Lear's main mental anguishes to the direct act of wrong doing towards him. The wrong doings cause so much suffering because it comes from the two people he thought loved him more than any person on earth, Goneril and Regan.
These ungrateful daughters strip Lear of his knights when he gives over his power (Dominic 233) of which this quote makes an exemplary example: Regan: And speak't again, my lord. No more with me Lear: Those wicked creatures yet do look well favored When others are more wicked: not being the worst Stand in some rank of praise. I'll go with thee. Thy fifty yet doth double five-and-twenty And thou are twice her love. Goneril: Hear me, my lord: What need you five and twenty, ten, or five, ... Regan: What need one? Lear: O, reason not the need! Our beset beggars Are in the poorest thing superfluous.
(II. iv. 257-267) This conversation describes how evil subverts good; but in the end good is victorious (Ribner 136). Lear's daughters cause him to think that everyone who says they love him will turn on him. In the end of the story, Lear reaches the pinnacle of redemptive salvation. Lear sees his imprisonment as a time he and Cordelia can 'live, /and pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh/ At guided butterflies and hear poor rogues/ Talk of court news...
(V. iii. 11-14). King Lear realizes Cordelia's extreme love for him and wishes to make up for lost time and seek her forgiveness for his rage.
God then rescues the souls of Lear and Cordelia from the prison of there bodies and unites them in eternal bliss (Siegel 188). The acts of kindness Cordelia bestows on him at the end of the story confuses King Lear. Lear goes through many important stages during the play. The first stage is his naive and immature character in dividing his kingdom according to his daughters' love. The second stage is a descent into madness causing his self-esteem to fall. The third and most noble stage is his realization of evil and redemptive salvation.
Lear's struggle portrays man's struggle through life from childhood, to the confusion of adulthood, and to the eventual wisdom of the aged (Ribner 136). Through these three stages Lear mentally goes from an immature child to becoming a wise king, and his powers goes to the contrary. Work Cited Bruhl, Marshal De. British Writers. New York: Scribner's Son, 1964. Dominic, Catherine C.
Shakespeare's Characters for Students. Detroit: Gale Publishers, 1997. Halio, Jay L. ' Double Plot of King Lear.' ; Readings on the Tragedies of William Shakespeare.
Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: The Green haven Press Literary Companion Series, 1996. 189-193.
Ribner, Irving. Patterns in Shakespearean Tragedy. London: MacMillan, 1960. Shakespeare, William.
King Lear. Ed. Russell Fraser. New York: Penguin Group, 1963. Siegel, Paul N. Shakespearean Tragedy and the Elizabethan Compromise.
New York: Oxford University Press, 1957.