How are Lear in King Lear and Theseus in A Midsummer Night's Dream different?
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Theseus is clearly a character who has a considerable sense of humour, as witnessed through the numerous sarcastic remarks he makes during the performance of the play by the Mechanicals. In addition, he is the character charged with ending the main section of the comedy by ushering in revels and feasting for a week. Note his final lines in the play:
Sweet friends, to bed.
A fortnight hold we this solemnity
In nightly revels and new jollity.
Theseus thus is a character charged with ending the main section of the play in Act V scene 1 on a positive, happy note, with the thought of "revels" and "jollity" staying with the audience. The end of the play after all represents a happy ending for Theseus, as he is now married to Hippolyta, and is free to start his life as a husband.
By contrast, Lear's final words underscore the absolute bleak nature of the tragedy that creates such a dark and depressing mood. His final speech, uttered in Act V scene 3 just before he dies, shows how his words underscore the mood of gloom and complete desolation that hangs over the play:
And my poor fool is hanged. No, no, no life?
Why should a dog, a horse, a rat have life,
And thou no breath at all? Thou'lt come no more.
Never, never, never, never, never.
This is almost Beckettian in its intensity and nihilism, and indicates that whereas Theseus is a character who comes to be associated with happy endings and revelry, Lear is his polar opposite.
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