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King Lear is a tragedy, indeed many consider it to be Shakespeare's darkest, bleakest tragedy of all. Lear is vain and delusional, and his flaws devastate the lives of those around him, particularly Cordelia, who loves him most. Some recent scholars, especially gender theorists, have pointed out that Goneril and Regan are simply women looking out for themselves in a patriarchal society. Their portrayal as evil was the result, it is argued, of academic sexism, not Shakespeare's. Others have sought to relate the events in Lear to the succession of James I, an aspiring absolutist. Yet even in when subjected to and complicated by modern literary criticism, Lear remains a tragedy. In fact, fearful that their audiences might find the ending too bleak, producers in the nineteenth century altered the ending to allow Lear and Cordelia to survive, a recognition of how profoundly tragic this great work is.
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