To what extent do you agree that King Lear is a tragic hero?
Aristotle considered that a tragic hero is one who mistakenly brings about their own downfall leading to a fundamentally ‘tragic’ death. Aristotle claims that the role of hamartia comes not from one’s morality or social status but from the inevitability of the tragedy itself. King Leardoes fit the criteria of the ‘tragic hero’, as he is a character who is prosperous at first holding the ‘divine right of kings’. King Lear’s fundamental mistake is asking the absurd and almost unjust question to his daughters: ‘’who thou dost love me most’’. This is not a question who one would expect to be asked by a noble King – especially during the Elizabethan era. Lear assumes that his poweris absolute; perhaps his hamrtia is his complacency in a world with amoral elements towards his hold on power. Hence, this is the foremost tragic element of is flaw, which later leads to his tragic downfall.
In the very opening scene we have the banishment of Kent and Cordelia, foreshadowing Lear’s tragic isolation which is yet to come. Kent and Cordelia from the outset are represented as beingnoble and honest characters, who are completely and utterly devoted to Lear. Cordelia’s admission of ‘’unhappy that I am I cannot heave my heart into my mouth’’ most aptly represents the honesty which lies within her. The word ‘’heave’’ here perhaps suggests the violence and envy which is portrayed by her sisters Reagan and Goneril, as they are willing to create a situation in which Lear’spower becomes infirm. It is Lear’s rejection of Cordelia’s true intentions and willing acceptance of Goneril and Reagan that is not only his weakness but also the root of his tragic death.
Likewise Kent’s statement of ‘’see better Lear and still remain the true blank of thine eye’’ is a way of conveying his loyalty and affinity towards Lear, and his absolute submission to his King. It is evidenthere that Kent is willing to alert and make Lear ‘’see’’ the reality and ‘’truth’’ of the situation between his daughters; however, his inability to ‘’see’’ the truth could suggest why Lear’s tragedy at the end of the play results, due to his hamartia and weakness, especially through his misjudgement of people such as Cordelia – who from the outset should have been recognised as being a characterwith true noble honesty.
In addition ‘’to serve him truly’’ similarly indicates Kent’s utter devotion to Lear and his inherent attributes towards Lear’s life. Furthermore, Kent’s royalty and kinship, is most apparent in Act1 Scene 1,’’Royal Lear whom I have honoured as my King, loved as my father, and as my great patron thought in on my prayers’’. Likewise, this most aptly represents Kent’sloyalty towards Lear, and how ‘fatherly’ and dominant the connection and relationship between the two actually is – especially through Kent who demonstrates a more ‘loving’ relationship. The banishment of Kent and his return as Caius are the subsequent revelations and proof of Lear’s weakness, thus perhaps suggesting his ubiquitous tragic element of misjudgement through out the play – up until the endwhen he realises the mistake he has made.
This sense of devotion results in a character that is utterly isolated in the early moments of Act 2; ‘’Hence and avoid my sight’’ and ‘’Come not between a dragon and his wrath’’ most aptly epitomises Lear’s fault and incapability to ‘’see’’ the truth, and withhold his devoted companions such as Kent, from being sent away and ostracised from society.The isolation of both Cordelia and Kent by Lear makes us the audience feel all the more pity towards Lear, and thus feel a sense of empathy to his flaw. This is perhaps one of the foremost places in the play where we the audience feel that perhaps Lear from the outset of the play , perhaps was not as wise and noble as a typical Elizabethan King would have acted to such event. Moreover, this...