Old Age

  • Created by: Pip Dan
  • Created on: 20-09-17 16:43

Old Age is a key theme in 'King Lear' and It was and still is an important concept in society. Every audience member is faced with the fact that they themselves will one day become old and are perhaps already have family members in that position. Therefore, this theme is very accessible unlike say Kingship, Old Age is a universal idea and one which Shakespeare does not reflect on positively.

Many notions of sympathy for Lear can find a strong argument in the fact that he is an old person who is suffering from not only the impact of his age but the neglect from his daughters:

  • Actor Simon Russel Beal believed that Lear might be suffering with a form of dementia. If one is to agree with this then Lear's suffering through madness it also caused by his old age, that seems to lie at the root of his problems
  • Whilst the idea of a King retiring would have been very controversial. It is understandable that as a man Lear would want to scale down his responsibility in old age, perhaps also understanding the need for more able people to take control. Lear talks of 'conferring them on younger strengths' suggesting this
  • The audience are also constantly reminded of Lear's age. The adjective that Shakespeare most commonly uses for Lear is ‘old’ and sometimes ‘foolish’ too. Old itself is a descriptor used amongst those who love him: Kent, Gloucester and most especially the Fool. Also, it’s the word Lear uses to describe himself on some occasions. This clearly shows that Shakespeare wants to remind his audience that Lear is old perhaps in a bid to create sympathy for him. However, Lear’s age eventually becomes his identity. The fact that he is old strips away his individuality as his body and mind can no longer fulfil basic needs
  • Whilst Lear's love-test it hard to sympathise with, it could be explained as Lear trying to be sure that he will be cared

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