King learDoes lear fit aristotle's definition of a tragic hero?  

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jeromeleo's profile pic

jeromeleo | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted on

In so far as Lear is a king, he belongs to high rank/station, and therefore basically qualified in the role of a tragic hero. Again, he is generally inclined to goodness, and his passage from renunciation of kingship to his disaster & death shows a downward curve from prosperity to adsversity. And in this downfall, he arouses the emotions of pity and fear.

But the error which lies at the root of Lear's sufferings is his division of kingdom--Goneril & Regan being rewarded, and Cordelia banished--an error resulting from his 'anger'. It was a flaw more in the person/character of the old king than in the circumstances. This is not strictly the Aristotelian 'hamartia'. However, the tragedy of Lear assumes cosmic dimensions to become truly universal.

 

One needs to consider the idea of the "Great Chain of Being."  Lear is a King because the gods have deemed him worthy to be a king.  For the Elizabethan audience, the idea that a king would give his throne up without question is a crucial error.  The coronation of a monarch was as much a religious activity as it was a political one.  Shakespeare's  audience knew nothing good would come from Lear's decision.

To compound matters, Lear loses his temper and banishes his loving daughter and his most loyal Kent.  From then on, "that way madness lies," as Lear himself admits.

But the error, the cause, the decline begins before the play opens; Lear has already decided to divide his kingdom; that is the beginning of his doom.

 

sohair's profile pic

sohair | Middle School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

I've enjoyed reading your comments on King Lear, but well it,s been a long time since I last read  the play. I think tragedy is to have suffering, and King Lear, who is from a high rank-really suffered from his misjudgment, and misunderstanding of love and the ways to express or show it.

Cordelia also is a victim for her father's irrational decision and her sistres'greed.

epollock's profile pic

epollock | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted on

It all depends on how his definition is translated:

“A tragedy, then, is the imitation of an action that is serious and also, as having magnitude, complete in itself; in language with pleasurable acces­sories, each kind brought in separately in the parts of the work; in a dramatic, not in a narrative form; with in­cidents arousing pity and fear, wherewith to accomplish its catharsis of such emotions... "(Imgram Bywater: 35) 

His definition  is as confusing today as it was then.  Lear's action was serious, has magnitude (from his high position), arousing pity and fear along with a catharsis.  If you translate it other ways, i am sure someone can fir their definition. There are words in the ancient text that don't translate very well, and the contemporary meanings are not very clear.

http://www.paredes.us/tragedy.html

http://www.authorama.com/the-poetics-1.html

 

kc4u's profile pic

kc4u | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted on

In so far as Lear is a king, he belongs to high rank/station, and therefore basically qualified in the role of a tragic hero. Again, he is generally inclined to goodness, and his passage from renunciation of kingship to his disaster & death shows a downward curve from prosperity to adsversity. And in this downfall, he arouses the emotions of pity and fear.

But the error which lies at the root of Lear's sufferings is his division of kingdom--Goneril & Regan being rewarded, and Cordelia banished--an error resulting from his 'anger'. It was a flaw more in the person/character of the old king than in the circumstances. This is not strictly the Aristotelian 'hamartia'. However, the tragedy of Lear assumes cosmic dimensions to become truly universal.

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