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King Lear is a Christian drama placed in pagan world." Please provide the examples from...

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shannaqvi | Student, Undergraduate | Honors

Posted October 8, 2012 at 11:36 AM via web

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King Lear is a Christian drama placed in pagan world." Please provide the examples from the text.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 9, 2012 at 5:29 AM (Answer #1)

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So much of this play is about the injustices of the world and how the gods in this bleak vision of earth cannot be trusted in and delight in vexing us and thwarting our plans and schemes. This play is perhaps out of all of Shakespeare's works the bleakest play he has written, and this is captured most brilliantly in the image of Lear wandering around the moor during the tremendous storm. Some critics have argued that this image provides us with an image of man in an absurdist universe populated by gods who rejoice at our misfortune.

However, having said this, it is important to note that there are elements of Christianity that are placed in this pagan backdrop. One of the most obvious of all of these is Cordelia and her Christ-like love for her father. Even though she has been sinned against by her father and banished for her greater love, she plans to return to her home and save her father. Note what she says when she sees him again and tries to revive him:

O my dear father! Restoration hang
Thy medicine on my lips; and let this kiss
Repair those violent harms that my two sisters
Have in thy reverence made!

There are clear echoes of self-sacrificial love in her character that could lead her to be viewed as almost being a Christ-like figure. She is the one truly good character who demonstrates unconditional love, unlike her sisters, even though it leads to her own death.

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aea1791 | Student, Undergraduate | eNoter

Posted October 8, 2012 at 6:41 PM (Answer #2)

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Evidence supporting the idea that King Lear is a Christian drama comes in the form of a narrative structure in which Lear suffers in the course of his eventual redemption in a way that mirrors the redemption of mankind through the sacrifice of Christ.  The play presents a conflict between an ordered universe in which a higher power exists and a disordered one, in which chaos and evil suggest the absence of a divine order.  

The following passage in which Lear speaks to Cordelia demonstrates his faith in religion:
 
"No, no, no, no! Come, let’s away to prison.
We two alone will sing like birds i' th' cage.
When thou dost ask me blessing, I’ll kneel down
And ask of thee forgiveness. So we’ll live,
And pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh
At gilded butterflies, and hear poor rogues
Talk of court news, and we’ll talk with them too—
Who loses and who wins, who’s in, who’s out—
And take upon ’s the mystery of things
As if we were God’s spies. And we’ll wear out
In a walled prison packs and sects of great ones
That ebb and flow by the moon."

V.iii.9-20

Ultimately, however, the characters fall victim to overwhelming forces beyond their control. 

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