King Lear by William Shakespeare

King LearKing Lear by William Shakespeare
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

King Lear Review

The following review contains spoilers. Read at your own risk.

The wonder is he hath endured so long…
The oldest hath borne most.

King Lear was absurd. It is a game of chess; a ferocious battle between man and himself. The only difference is—no one wins: the outcome is either bad or worse.

At first impression, I expected King Lear to be composed of homicide, suicide, and other forms of murder. But more than that, King Lear is a struggle of sociological and psychological oppositions, where characters are brought to extreme measures of suffering that plunge them down and down and down. In fact, our characters suffer all-throughout, from beginning to end, making the play entirely tragic and utterly breathtaking. For instance, Lear suffers from his daughter, Cordelia, who refuses to announce her daughterly love; then suffers more when his other daughters neglect his presence and treat him like any other; suffers more again as he is driven mad with a raging storm; then suffers lastly when he expects to be reunited with Cordelia for a long period of time only to find her dead in the end. Why hadn’t he died first? Why was he the very last to die? Why should he face the threats of pain in place of his expectations of living peacefully?

One considerable factor that could answer those questions could lead us to the persistent mention of the Fortune’s wheel (i.e. “Fortune is often depicted turning a wheel on which mortal rise and fall.”; “When one is at the bottom of the wheel—as he thinks he is—the next turn of the wheel must bring upward ‘to laughter’.”). Perhaps Lear was simply experiencing his “fall”; it is the time when he needs to be at the “bottom of the wheel” since he must have had his “rise”, yet this fall is by no means excessive. Or is it? Perhaps not, in fact, the Fool mocks his sufferings and reduces him from a king to an ordinary, foolish old man, whose acts of giving his inheritance and depending upon his daughters were silly. As such, Lear must only be at odds with reality, a rather comical character who makes a fool out of himself.

King Lear is open to many interpretations, but in essence, it is a story of how reality brings pain, and a reflection for us to ponder on how we will face these sufferings when we are challenged at the bottom of the wheel.

Is death the only answer?


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