Despite the three-hundred-year-old debate regarding the lack of unity in the plot of King Lear, it is one of the most readable and gripping of William Shakespeare’s dramas. The theme of filial ingratitude is presented clearly in the depiction of two families, whom circumstances eventually bring together as the two narrative lines converge. King Lear is not only an absorbing drama but a disturbing one. The beauty of diction and the overwhelming pathos of the treatment given to innocence and goodness add to the poignancy of the emotional play. Like all great tragic dramas, the story of Lear and his folly purges the emotions by terror and pity.
King Lear’s first entrance in act 1 is replete with ritual and ceremony. He is full of authority and assurance as he makes his regal way through the ordered court. When he reveals his intention to divide his kingdom into three parts for his daughters, he exudes the confidence generated by his long reign. The crispness and directness of his language suggests a power that, far from senility, demonstrates the stability and certainty of long, unchallenged rule. From that point on, the play acts out the destruction of that fixed order and the emergence of a new, tentative balance.
In the opening scene, Lear speaks as king and father. The absolute ruler decides to apportion his kingdom to his three heirs as a gift rather than bequest. In performing this act, which superficially seems both...
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