King Lear Analysis

In: English and Literature

Submitted By alexarose
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In regards to Roland Barthes’ statement that “literature is the question minus the answer”, a reader can find that the central question posed by Shakespeare’s King Lear concerns morality. More specifically, King Lear’s treatment of the question of whether a moral life is necessarily a better life is brought out in the juxtaposition of the characters Edmund and Cordelia, and the universality of King Lear explored through the modern philosophies associated with each. One of the most polarized characters of the play, Edmund is a character willing to commit heinous deeds like framing his own brother, arranging the murder of his own brother and committing adultery with Goneril and Regan. Rather than trying to please the Gods with morally sound actions, he instead calls for them to “stand up” for “bastards” like him who are earning a place in society through trickery and deceit. Until his death looms over him, Edmund remains unashamedly unrepentant of his behavior and seems almost proud of his lack of moral fiber. Unfortunately for Edmund, he dies of a mortal wound before he can reap the benefits of his conniving, rendering all his efforts for naught. The least morally sound character is therefore unsuccessful in his endeavors and dies at a young age, proving that living a morally un-sound life does little for Edmund. In contrast, Cordelia adheres to the prescribed morality and benevolent behavior. She is the only daughter who does not forsake her father, even though Lear himself admits that Cordelia has “some cause” to wrong him. Cordelia’s character does not waver throughout the play, and she continues to represent on pole of the moral spectrum. However, being morally sounds does Cordelia few favors, and she is killed at the close of the play. Although Edmund and Cordelia are very different characters, they both meet the same end: death at the hands of another. This…...

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