KING LEAR Right/Wrong, Good/Evil PLAN AND QUOTES

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Right and wrong, good and evil are never entirely clear or distinct from one another in King Lear.” Consider this view of Shakespeare’s play and show how your ideas have been illuminated by your reading of Oedipus Rex. 

DISTINCTLY EVIL

  • Initially verbose language creates facade of 'goodness" ("No less than life with grace, health, beauty, honour") Goneril and Regan quickly portrayed as evil: reversion to prose + “the unruly waywardness that infirm and choleric years bring with them”  i.e showing that they know Lear not fully to blame for his faults but they exploit this instead of take it into account. 
  • Their falsity acknowledged by Cordelia ("that glib and oily art") and Kent ("Nor are those empty hearted whose low sounds/ reverb no hollowness"). This also places Cordelia and Kent as 'good' in opposition to them.
  • Lear brands them as evil in act 2.4: "sharp-toothed unkindness", "depraved", "wicked creatures". Accuses them of being ingrateful b/c he "gave [them] all".
  • [OEDIPUS LINK: Such hyperbolic language also used to describe clear evils in Oedipus; the Spinx is "that monstrous perversion of woman, lion and bird", and the Chorus' description of the evil in the city is pages long, "a whole city dying", "a whole city screaming", "slime and fungus on orchard and meadow". Ambiguity comes from the fact that Oedipus is actually root of this evil, when he is initially described as "the best of men".]
  • Edmond also evil character. Opportunistic, driving negative movement of plot. "If...my invention thrive, Edmond the base/ Shall to th'legitimate". Evil by plotting against father, in eyes of people "son against father" is an evil thing.
  • Gloucester's outbursts of "O villain, villain" (even tho directed to Edgar) with the help of dramatic irony associate this lexis w/ Edmond. 
  • Constant questioning in 1.2 "Spake you with him?" "Parted you on good terms?" actively pushing progression of the plot, v. manipulative.
  • His frequent asides, whilst suggesting that evil not necessarily 'clear' to other characters, is clear to the audience. 
  • "Which of them shall I take?/ Both? one? or niether?" shows total lack of emotional attachment his manipulation of Goneril and Regan. 
  • However perhaps in eyes of a contemporary audience, but certainly Edmond, Goneril and Regan are in the wrong for giving in to lust, perhaps Shakespeare's intended message. Biblical imagery of "Each jealous of the other as the stung/ Are of the adder" links them right back to Eve.
  • Condemned by sexuality reinforced by "all three/ Now marry in an instant" in Shakespeare's time the word death was an innuendo for ******, Died because of their wrongful lust.

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