What is the significance of old age and death in King Lear?

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Old age and death are both significant themes in William Shakespeare's play, King Lear. There are several ways in which the characters in the play are confronted with their own mortality.

An important contextual element affecting this theme is the Christian background to the play. Both Shakespeare and his audience would have been members of the Church of England (or possibly Roman Catholics) for whom old age was the point at which one needed to prepare oneself for being judged either saved or damned. As King Lear is stripped of his worldly goods and power, he finally achieves the insight he lacked at the beginning of the play and reconciles with Cordelia. Gloucester's heart also "bursts smilingly."

The original hearers would have considered this, in a sense, a happy ending, in that both men appear to die in a state of grace, having achieved some degree of final redemption through suffering. 

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The significance of old age and death in King Lear

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