Hey there! Sign in to join this conversationNew here? Join for free

WJEC English Literture: King Lear with Oedipus & Paradise Lost Book 9 watch

    • Thread Starter
    Offline

    1
    ReputationRep:
    Hi everyone!
    I'm studying A level English Literature (WJEC) and the texts my class are studying are King Lear with Oedipus and Paradise Lost Book 9.
    I was wondering if anyone else is studying the same and could possibly help out with revision tips and/or quotes... especially for Paradie Lost as I am, in fact, VERY lost!
    If you have any mind maps or anything available to share, I would be SO grateful.

    Thanks
    • TSR Support Team
    • Study Helper
    Offline

    21
    ReputationRep:
    TSR Support Team
    Study Helper
    (Original post by KatieTurner)
    Hi everyone!
    I'm studying A level English Literature (WJEC) and the texts my class are studying are King Lear with Oedipus and Paradise Lost Book 9.
    I was wondering if anyone else is studying the same and could possibly help out with revision tips and/or quotes... especially for Paradie Lost as I am, in fact, VERY lost!
    If you have any mind maps or anything available to share, I would be SO grateful.

    Thanks
    I've read and studied these texts before. I have studied Oedipus at uni for a Literature module and for a Classics module so I'm quite familiar with that. I've taught King Lear before and I've read Book 9 too.

    What are you needing help with in particular?
    • Thread Starter
    Offline

    1
    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by The Empire Odyssey)
    I've read and studied these texts before. I have studied Oedipus at uni for a Literature module and for a Classics module so I'm quite familiar with that. I've taught King Lear before and I've read Book 9 too.

    What are you needing help with in particular?
    Amazing, thank you for replying so quickly.I need help mainly on how to revise for the exam (I find literature somewhat messy to revise). As it is a closed book exam, we need to memorise quotes. I want to focus my revision around the AO's and find quotes for each objective, but I don't know where to begin - particularly for Paradise Lost as I have very little resources on it. As for King Lear, what themes would you suggest I focus on?
    Offline

    2
    ReputationRep:
    I have a couple of essays comparing King Lear and Oedipus (I'm WJEC too) that I got A* on if you'd like to have a look. I'm okay when I have all the time in the world, it will be a totally different story in 1 hour 15!
    • Thread Starter
    Offline

    1
    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by Katiecartwright)
    I have a couple of essays comparing King Lear and Oedipus (I'm WJEC too) that I got A* on if you'd like to have a look. I'm okay when I have all the time in the world, it will be a totally different story in 1 hour 15!
    Yes please, that would be a great help, thank you! I know, tell me about it! I'm really bad at deciding on particular quotes to use too... I feel like I need to memorise the whole play!
    • TSR Support Team
    • Study Helper
    Offline

    21
    ReputationRep:
    TSR Support Team
    Study Helper
    (Original post by KatieTurner)
    Amazing, thank you for replying so quickly.I need help mainly on how to revise for the exam (I find literature somewhat messy to revise). As it is a closed book exam, we need to memorise quotes. I want to focus my revision around the AO's and find quotes for each objective, but I don't know where to begin - particularly for Paradise Lost as I have very little resources on it. As for King Lear, what themes would you suggest I focus on?
    I agree with you - I found Literature my hardest A-level to revise cause it's all about quotes rather than content of material. It's somewhat the same at uni too. I really do hate Literature exams!

    Well first of all, since you want to focus on AO, then you need to understand them. Each of your AO are worth 15% and each section has 40 marks.

    I think for your Section A:
    AO1: This will be very important as it's a critical reading of poetry which means your concepts such as literary criticism will be in place. Terminology such as metaphors, adjectives, poetic devices, etc are used. This is obvious when discussing poetry and I think every other line should have a poetic device in there. Or at least, every point you make. So for Paradise Lost it would be critical readings of perhaps how Milton uses the Bible - then if you could get quotes from the Bible to prove this; then you'd score highly for AO1 as this is reading poetry at a critical level. Also, philosophical opinions are also classed as critical readings too.

    AO2: How structure, form and language shape and create meanings in poetry. This is where you need to know your different types of poems, your meters and etc in order to get the best out of your response. Since yours is an epic poem, you need to make sure you know the structure of epic poems and how that relates to the plot in Book 9. The structure is usually the plot anyway and the narration whilst the form is how the poem is written which is in epic form. Language, of course is quite self-explanatory.

    AO3: Pretty much the same as AO1 but rather terminologies, and that stuff, quote other critics or simple "another interpretation of this could be", etc.

    AO4: Historical, social and cultural time of the text's publication and received moment. You can't literally quote anything that you can directly link back to its time, but you can quote the text and then forward-say "this shows back in the 17th century" etc. For instance, you can relate Eve's fall from grace to the serious increased rise of female prostitution in 17th century England.

    I number one advice for you is to reread Paradise Lost Book 9 (and 10?) and get quotes for that.

    All the past questions are very random in terms of they offer choices from theme, plot, narration, stylistics and language, etc. So, I would just perhaps focus on 2 whichever you feel most comfortable with. Personally I'd perhaps go with theme such as religion, God, Nature, Sin/Morality, Redemption.

    King Lear and Oedipus Rex:

    Themes I would consider are: family relationships (parent and child), greed/selfishness, blindness and redemption, society as a metaphor, madness and mind under stress.

    I say no more than 6 themes will be necessary to revise. Make sure you pick out small quotes that you can really rinse dry!

    I've I've helped in some way.
    • Thread Starter
    Offline

    1
    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by The Empire Odyssey)
    I agree with you - I found Literature my hardest A-level to revise cause it's all about quotes rather than content of material. It's somewhat the same at uni too. I really do hate Literature exams!

    Well first of all, since you want to focus on AO, then you need to understand them. Each of your AO are worth 15% and each section has 40 marks.

    I think for your Section A:
    AO1: This will be very important as it's a critical reading of poetry which means your concepts such as literary criticism will be in place. Terminology such as metaphors, adjectives, poetic devices, etc are used. This is obvious when discussing poetry and I think every other line should have a poetic device in there. Or at least, every point you make. So for Paradise Lost it would be critical readings of perhaps how Milton uses the Bible - then if you could get quotes from the Bible to prove this; then you'd score highly for AO1 as this is reading poetry at a critical level. Also, philosophical opinions are also classed as critical readings too.

    AO2: How structure, form and language shape and create meanings in poetry. This is where you need to know your different types of poems, your meters and etc in order to get the best out of your response. Since yours is an epic poem, you need to make sure you know the structure of epic poems and how that relates to the plot in Book 9. The structure is usually the plot anyway and the narration whilst the form is how the poem is written which is in epic form. Language, of course is quite self-explanatory.

    AO3: Pretty much the same as AO1 but rather terminologies, and that stuff, quote other critics or simple "another interpretation of this could be", etc.

    AO4: Historical, social and cultural time of the text's publication and received moment. You can't literally quote anything that you can directly link back to its time, but you can quote the text and then forward-say "this shows back in the 17th century" etc. For instance, you can relate Eve's fall from grace to the serious increased rise of female prostitution in 17th century England.

    I number one advice for you is to reread Paradise Lost Book 9 (and 10?) and get quotes for that.

    All the past questions are very random in terms of they offer choices from theme, plot, narration, stylistics and language, etc. So, I would just perhaps focus on 2 whichever you feel most comfortable with. Personally I'd perhaps go with theme such as religion, God, Nature, Sin/Morality, Redemption.

    King Lear and Oedipus Rex:

    Themes I would consider are: family relationships (parent and child), greed/selfishness, blindness and redemption, society as a metaphor, madness and mind under stress.

    I say no more than 6 themes will be necessary to revise. Make sure you pick out small quotes that you can really rinse dry!

    I've I've helped in some way.
    That's a great help, thank you so much!
    Offline

    2
    ReputationRep:
    These are the essays, I'll just post them here if that's okay, way too many characters for a message!

    Explore Shakespeare’s Interest in Deception in ‘King Lear’ and Show how far your understanding and appreciation of his treatment of this issue have been informed by your reading of ‘Oedipus Rex’

    Shakespeare's 'King Lear' fundamentally commentates the diversity of the human condition and therefore provides insight into the inner workings of society with particular focus upon deceit. Shakespeare addresses the theme of deceit by depicting the contrasts between malignant or benign deception, but most importantly also highlights the damaging nature of self deceit. Similarly, within 'Oedipus Rex', Sophocles capably narrates the downfall of Oedipus who, whilst unable to sacrifice his pride, unknowingly deceives himself and those around him.

    Shakespeare depicts characters who behave deceitfully as a means to achieve power. Edmund's intentional linguistic deception is illuminated by the contrasts between his lexis within the first two scenes of the play. Initially, Shakespeare crafts Edmund's vocatives of 'lordship' and sir' to be indicative of respect; which directly contradicts his energetic desires to 'top th' legitimate'- his brother Edgar- within the next scene. This contrast in language not only voids Edmund's respectful qualities towards those around him and the audience itself, but also demonstrates a rejection of societal expectations of the time- in which an illegitimate child would have no legal validation to claim inheritance. Since the repetitive use of 'legitimate' is a source of semantic satiation, Edmund seemingly renders his lowly social status as meaningless, however this is arguably an example of self deceit, as his words hold no true authority. This alludes to Edmund's lack of respect towards the 'great chain of being', among other social constructs, is a source of his deceitful behaviour. Furthermore, the stage directions within the scene as Edmund is seen to be "(pocketing the letter)", exemplifies his secrecy to a degree of irony, since his plans depend on Gloucester's knowledge of the letter, ultimately reinforcing Edmund's calculative and manipulative qualities. This irony is substantiated by Gloucester's questioning why Edmund "so earnestly seek you to put up that letter?", as Shakespeare's use of 'earnest' juxtaposes the theme of deception. However, this could conversely represent Gloucester's short-sighted trust in Edmund, which only contributes to his villainous depiction of a deceiver by virtue of Gloucester's naivety, which is reinforced by his uncertainty; “Hum, conspiracy?”. Furthermore, this is not the only example of Edmund's deliberate deception regarding the inconsistencies of his character. Edmund expresses explicit disgust in astrology, in that that humanity makes "guilty of our disasters the sun", whilst later states “Oh, these eclipses do portend these divisions!”. In this respect, Edmund is decisively 'Machiavellian'- using deceit and dismissing moral principle in order to gain authority. This suggests that Shakespeare's characterisation of Edmund is directly inspired by Italian political theorist Machiavelli and his publication of 'The Prince' in the sixteenth century, which justifies this use of immoral means. This is reflected within 'Oedipus Rex', as Oedipus accuses Creon of "Hunting for absolute power", which although false, parallels the themes of gaining authority by virtue of deceit, as demonstrated by Edmund. The term 'hunting' itself embodies the ruthless characteristics of Machiavellian politics and therefore reiterates Shakespeare's intentions to employ an undertone of viciousness in order to accompany the themes of deceit.

    Goneril and Regan also behave as a recurring source of deception to Lear, by virtue of their obsequious qualities. When Lear requests their admissions of love, Goneril's hyperbolic assertion of 'Dearer than eye-sight, space, and liberty’ appears cumulative and excessive, corroborating Edmund's use of language to enact his deceit. Among the sycophantic utterances of Gonril and Regan is language indicative of materialism and superficiality, creating a distinction between the ‘true' words of Cordelia and the language used by her sisters- such as ‘prize' and ‘worth'. Eagleton argues that "'all' has been so radically devalued, Cordelia's murdered 'nothing' is the only sound currency", evoking the deterioration of meaning that accompanies such deceit. Goneril is depicted with recurring lines of animalistic imagery, as the Fool recalls an anecdote of a sparrow who "had it head bit off by it young", which foreshadows Goneril's deceptive betrayal, exacerbated by the destruction of the parent-child relationship. Similarly, the Fool also uses zoomorphism in order to analogise Goneril to “A fox when one has caught her/ And such a daughter". The 'fox' carries connotations of slyness and deceit, frequently appearing within folklore as a symbol of trickery. The feminine rhyming couplets within this assertion mocks Lear's metaphorical short-sightedness, as it creates a lyrical tone which trivialises the violent "slaughter" of Goneril subsequently suggested by the Fool, but alternatively indicates Lear's perceived simplistic naivety. The egotistical portrayal of the sisters is consistent with Sophocles' depiction of Oedipus, in that he is presented as tyrannical, asserting that "I hold power and sovereign authority". The lexis used by Sophocles within Oedipus' dialogue is heavily indicative of the assertion of dominance, similar to the sister's competitive attempts to obtain authority, which further reinforces power as a primary motive of deceit.

    Shakespeare also depicts elements of benign deception, primarily centred around Kent's ambitions to deceive in order to serve Lear. Although Kent deceives Lear by "other accents borrow", he also highlights his "good intent". Shakespeare's simple use of 'good' communicates Kent's humble nature and ultimately enhances the distinction between Kent's benign deception and the contrasting fabrication of Lear's daughters.This theme of disguise is also reiterated by Edgar's soliloquy in Act II Scene II, in which he aspires to "take the basest and most poorest shape" to evade capture. This demonstrates the unjust consequences of Edmund's deceit and furthermore validates Edgar's use of disguise as benevolent. However, the use of 'base' may conversely parallel the language choices within Edmund's previous soliloquy and therefore highlights their societal role reversal, illuminating the relationship between deceit and power and more pessimistically, morality and the diminution of status. Oedipus is also disguised as the perpetrator of the murder of Laius through his presentation as paternal yet capable leader, addressing the people of Thebes as 'children' and being assigned the title of 'Famous Oedipus' by the Priest. As a polytheistic society, the priest figure in Greece would typically unite religion and government, unknowingly validating Oedipus' ethical disguise and therefore highlighting the flaws of unintentional deception. The Fool within 'King Lear' is also a significant device, as he is an 'artificial fool', able to criticise society and illuminate its flaws. In the Jacobean era, Fools would typically challenge the audience's perception of wisdom and truth, through the use of satirical role reversal and reign to comment on the actions of their social betters as an outsider, sustaining a choric function. Several critics have suggested that this witty role in particular was written by Shakespeare exclusively for comedic actor Robert Armin, demonstrating the specificity of the Fool and therefore his unmistakable importance in not only illuminating the deceit of Goneril and Regan, but more widely challenging Lear's own self deception. However, the Fool expresses desire to execute benign deception, as he affectionately calls Lear "nuncle" whilst simultaneously commenting that "I would fain learn to lie", reflecting the burden of the truth. The role of the Chorus within 'Oedipus Tyrannus' is similar to that of the Fool, as it behaves as an intermediary, consolidating the truths of the play to the audience. However, the Chorus is the main source of universalism within 'Oedipus Rex', contrasting with Shakespeare's use of plot parallels to maintain its relevance among a modern audience.

    Shakespeare also addresses Lear's self deception, particularly regarding the sincerity of the characters that surround him. As Lear banishes Kent, he exclaims “Hear me, recreant!”, which is particularly effective in illuminating a miscalculated element of self deceit, as labelling Kent as unfaithful is not only untrue- but extremely so, as Kent returns faithfully within Scene IV hoping to serve Lear- voiding the assertion that Kent is untrustworthy. Furthermore, the exclamative used by Shakespeare reinforces Lear's impulsiveness, which is used in conjunction with Lear's metaphorically 'blind' presentation to depict his 'hubris'. Similarly, within 'Oedipus Rex', the King figure is surrounded by themes of self deceit. Oedipus is confidently convinced that Tiresias, a mythological figure said to have experienced life as both man and woman, aims to deceive him. Although Tiresias' prophecies are often doubted within Greek tragedies, he is never shown to be false. The utterances between Tiresias and Oedipus are stichomythic, quickening the pace of their interaction as the King accuses the prophet of "Vicious slander" and "revelling in these accusations". This structural decision allows Sophocles to convey Oedipus as belligerent as he personally insults Tiresias, branding him a "Poor fool" in an attempt to elevate himself into the superior role within the dynamic, encompassing his pride as the motive for his self deceit. Furthermore, Oedipus brands Tiresias as a "swindling sorcerer", which reflects the exposure of 'quack oracle-mongers' exhibited within Aristophanes' 'Birds and Peace'. However, Oedipus' displays of ignorance is what manifests his own self deceit, as Tiresias asserts that he is 'blind' and therefore deceiving himself in defiance of the Gods. Griffith argues that Oedipus' tragic fulfilment of Apollo's prophecy "stresses the need for self-understanding", which is delineated by his hamartia and ultimate downfall. The flaws of typically bureaucratic characters is epitomised by the imagery used within both plays of sight; Kent urges the King to "See Better, Lear" due to his notorious "poor judgement". 'Oedipus Rex' particularly illuminates the importance of Lear's presumptuous rage, as both characters reach unsubstantiated conclusions which behave as a source of their relative diminutions.

    Although deceit is portrayed to varying degrees of immorality within 'King Lear', Shakespeare exemplifies its abundance across a spectrum of characters; reflecting the continuity of the human condition and ultimately universalises the persistence of deceit within modern circumstances. Sophocles also illuminates these themes, but whilst conforming to the 'three unities', places intense focus upon the plot of Oedipus' self deceit and the accusations of deceit towards the characters around him. However, both plays are united in their prominent criticism of the impulsive who, whilst preoccupied with self deceit, cause the destruction of familial relationships and ultimately themselves.

    1,645 words

    Examine Shakespeare’s dramatic use of the Fool in ‘King Lear’ in the light of Sophocles’ presentation of the Chorus

    Shakespeare’s ‘King Lear’ provides an explorative commentary regarding the human condition, using the Fool as a device of criticism and ironic wisdom regarding Lear's fictitious majesty. Similarly, within ‘Oedipus Tyrannus’, Sophocles’ use of the Chorus contributes a unique perspective, somewhat abstract from the ‘Classical Unities’ of Greek theatre, in their ability to solidify and universalise the abiding significance of the themes within the play. Despite the incorporation of humour by virtue of Lear’s Fool, both plays are united in their dramatic and functional use of a choric role to contribute additional and often emotionally provocative dimensions to the plot.

    Throughout ‘King Lear’, Shakespeare adapts the Fool’s critical commentary as a device to accentuate the downfalls of the characters surrounding him, by virtue of the changing dynamics of authority. Upon the Fool’s introduction, he “(offers KENT his cap)” symbolic for supporting Lear despite his misjudgements in banishing Cordelia. This use of stage directions, despite their general infrequency throughout, illustrates the emphasis of the Fool's judgemental characteristics for theatrical effect. Although the Fool is distinctively an ‘artificial fool’, a historical archetype who retained license to comment on their superiors, the stereotypically low status of fools in the Jacobean era dictates that criticisms of Lear are emphasised, encompassing the extent of his hamartia. The Fool humorously criticises how Lear has “mad'st thy/ daughters thy mothers” and “gav'st them/ the rod and put'st down thine own breeches”. Shakespeare employs this masochistic metaphor to illustrate the disintegration of Lear’s paternal authority into an “obedient father” which is polarised with his daughter’s acquisition of a sadistic maternal role. Conversely, the ‘rod’ may be perceived as a phallic symbol in order to humorously epitomise their ascent to power in a patriarchal society. The Chorus within ‘Oedipus Tyrannus' is composed of ‘elders’, which mirrors a degree of superiority and wisdom observed within the Fool, allowing them to potentially criticise their respective Kings. However, choral songs and dances are thought to have developed in order to honour Dionysus, which contrasts with the Fool’s patronising attitude towards Lear. For example, the Fool encourages Lear to “beg another [coxcomb] of thy daughters”. The lexical choice of “beg” is particularly effective in signifying the reversal of roles, not only between Lear and his daughters, but also with the Fool. Commonly within ancient tragedies, the Chorus did little to prevent lamenting events. However, within ‘Oedipus Tyrannus’, the Chorus serves the practical function of preventing Oedipus’ banishment of Creon during their ‘agōn’ and public stichomythia, urging them to “stop this, my lords”. Sophocles’ use of imperative language illustrates commonality between these works, as both the Fool and Chorus provide assertive yet practical functions, particularly in their attempts to preserve the sanity of their rulers and help them see reason, to varying degrees of authority.

    Structurally, the Fool contributes elements of humour to the play and therefore dictates its fluctuating intensity. The role of Lear’s Fool is thought to have been specifically crafted for ‘Lord Chamberlain’s Men’ member Robert Armin, who famously metamorphosed the role of the fool from the rustic servingman into a character of high-comedy domestic wit. Houston argues that if there were anyone suitable to “explore with Shakespeare the shadows and fitful flashes of the borderland of insanity, that player was Armin." This demonstrates the Fool's undeniable importance within the play and unique relationship with Shakespeare himself, initially inspiring the creation of Feste in ‘Twelfth Night’, who was similarly considered a “world-wisely fool”. During Act II Scene VI, Lear begins a mock trial of Goneril and Regan, which contains an abundance of comedic qualities. Whilst singing, the Fool metaphorically references the menstrual cycles of the sisters, asserting that "Her boat hath a leak”, in order to diminish them into their most simple of functions as fertile women. This parallels the previous diminution of Lear at the hands of his daughters as Goneril questions, in reference to his knights, "What need you five and twenty, ten, or five”, to which Regan responds “What need one?” This numerical reduction behaves as a symbol of Lear's powerlessness, which is in turn parodied by the Fool’s misogynistic menstrual reference. This provides humour and a sense of redemption for Lear, exempt from modern controversies as women maintained a low social status within the Jacobean period. Despite its bawdy nature, this remark is written in verse, contrasting with the bawdy prose of Gloucester within the First Act, despite his nobility. This is significant because a Jacobean audience would famously “hear a play” and the use of verse alludes to a sense of justice that is administered by the Fool, who remains unscrutinised for his inappropriate humour. Furthermore, The Fool's ultimate departure signifies the proceeding zenith of cruelty- the blinding of Gloucester- and the descent towards the pathos inevitably experienced by the audience. Therefore, the comedy that has been lost by the absence of the Fool signifies the disintegration of hope within the play. Despite a lack of comedy in its conformation to the genre of tragedy, the Chorus within ‘Oedipus Tyrannus’ also performs distinct structural and plot functions. The Chorus shares these elements of dramatic relief through sung odes in lyric metres of rich language, similar to the form of the songs of the Fool. Most prominently, the Third Stasimon written in the form of a hyporchema, provides a sense of joy in which the Chorus speculates Oedipus’ origins whilst he is “honoured in dance.” Segel claims this is "the only moment of sustained joy in the play”, performing the dramatic function of accentuating Oedipus’ later tragic revelations. This ultimately illuminates the importance of Lear’s Fool, demonstrating how the choric function provokes and often parallels the audience’s emotional response to the play.

    Shakespeare’s presentation of the Fool’s admirable complexity challenges societal hierarchies and preconceptions of human worth. By interrogating if Lear can differentiate “between a bitter fool and a sweet fool”, Shakespeare provides the Fool with a platform of superiority, in which he is able to question the validity of Lear's judgement. However, alternatively the antithesis between these gustatory semantics metaphorically parallels the Fool's dualistic characteristics of reason and loyalty embodied by the use of “bitter” and “sweet” respectively. These characteristics are exemplified by the Fool's protection of Lear during the tempest and the genuine love for Cordelia for whom he “hath much pined away”. Shakespeare therefore negates the validity of the ‘great chain of being’, in which the King remained irrefutably superior. For Renaissance thinkers, humans occupied a unique position within this hierarchy, possessing divine powers of reason and love whilst bound to the confines of physicality and therefore their own passions. Ironically, the Fool is one of very few characters that expresses this ‘divine power’ of reason, which in turn challenges the preconceptions of a Jacobean audience, as the Fool’s impact extends beyond his status. The Fool is also presented enigmatically, not returning after his appearance in the Third Act, stating ambiguously "And I'll go to bed at noon”. This may simply refer to the chaotic subversion of the natural order which is a central theme to the play, but also may carry more sinister connotations. Trevor Nunn’s film production of ‘King Lear’ depicts the physical hanging of the Fool, an alternative interpretation which is substantiated by Lear’s assertion that “my poor fool is hanged” later in the play and the concept that the Fool will 'go to bed’, representing the finality of death. The closure that is achieved by Nunn contradicts Shakespeare’s intentional ambiguity, and therefore an element of intrigue is lost in comparison to the play. Furthermore, the Fool also retains prophetic qualities, stating “So out went the candle, and we were left darkling”, which contributes to dramatic foreshadowing of blindness and confusion within the play by virtue of the depiction of literal darkness. Throughout ‘Oedipus Tyrannus’, the Chorus is depicted with similarly juxtaposing elements. Sophocles divides the choral odes into 'strophe' and ‘antistrophe’, which translates to ‘turning’ and ‘turning back’. This structural dichotomy provides a necessary source of uncertainty and tension in a plot which had already been popularised. However, in contrast with Shakespeare’s criticism of societal preconception, this duality celebrates the irresolvable debate for which Greek tragedy is famous. Furthermore, the Chorus’ leader speaks in iambic verse, not confined to the lyrics which typically define the Chorus. This allows the actor to assimilate into the dialogue of the other characters whilst suggesting to Oedipus that, since Apollo began the enquiry “surely it is for him to say who committed the crime.” Therefore, the Chorus honours Apollo, as god of plague and prophecy, over the authority of Oedipus, in preservation of Greek tradition, mirroring the frequent undermining of Lear by the Fool. However, despite qualities of authority retained by both devices, they serve contrasting functions; Sophocles aims to preserve the significance of deity hierarchies within polytheistic societies, whereas Shakespeare challenges the validity of man-made hierarchies.

    Shakespeare successfully crafts the Fool as a multifunctional device with a choric function. Through its presentation of comedy; providing perspective to the extent of Lear’s hamartia and the Fool’s own complexity, ‘King Lear’ establishes a dramatic commentary which cautions the audience regarding excessive hubris and blind belief in futile social constructs. Conversely, the Chorus within ‘Oedipus Tyrannus’ serves to solidify the importance of the Gods and their sovereign authority over the concept of fate. However, both plays are united in their use of dramatic relief achieved by their respective lyrical intersections and their abilities to commentate and foreshadow events, which aids the dramatic tension established within both works.

    1,599 words

    Discuss Shakespeare’s portrayal of family relationships in ‘King Lear’. Show how far your appreciation and understanding of this theme have been informed by your study of ‘Oedipus Rex’.

    Familial relationships are a central theme to ‘King Lear’, reflected within the abundance of various allegories and motifs. Most prominently, the division of Lear’s Kingdom becomes heavily synonymous with the destruction of the paternal and sibling relationships which are copious throughout the play. Within ‘Oedipus Tyrannus', Sophocles takes an alternative approach to the depiction of familial relationships, based upon the ignorance of the king and his ‘hubris’. However, both plays are united in the suffering they depict as a consequence of the breaking of familial bonds, reflected within the natural world.

    Shakespeare parallels the betrayal of family relationships with occurrences within natural world in order to illuminate its universally devastating effects. Gloucester betrays Edmund upon disrespectfully introducing him to Kent as a “whoreson", describing his conception that had “been at [his] charge.” Since Gloucester's utterances are written in prose, which are typically reserved for the lower class, Shakespeare confirms the unsavoury nature of this bawdy interaction, provoking criticism for his character as an unappreciative father. This is significant, as a Jacobean audience would famously "hear a play" and therefore sustain the ability to differentiate between verse and prose. During the second scene, Gloucester states that “late eclipses in the sun and moon portend no good to us”, which signifies the wider relationship between astrology and the human condition, particularly familial interactions. This unnatural breakdown of the familial bond is reflected within the pathetic fallacy of the storm in the third Act of the play; an interaction between the macrocosm and Lear’s microcosm. This is demonstrated by Lear's direct communication with nature ordering the wind to “Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! Rage, blow!”. The personification of the storm with ‘cheeks’ indicates that the natural world may be consciously punishing Lear for his previous misjudgments in banishing Cordelia. However, this personification may conversely represent Lear’s unity with the tempest as an extension of his own rage, as velar 'crack' embodies his resentment by virtue of its harsh phonology. Furthermore, this imperative exclamatory reflects the power that Lear persists to believe he sustains over his daughters, until he is reduced to a “poor, infirm, weak, and despised old man” later within the scene. In this respect, the severity which accompanies this breakdown of typical parental discord manifests on a scale of national and cosmic proportions.

    Within Oedipus, the plague- which manifests as a result of the betrayal of Oedipus’ relationship with his biological mother- is depicted within the Prologue as “a plague hated by all”. This reflects the universal suffering conveyed by the tempest within ‘King Lear’, the use of ‘hated' signifies that it is met with similar contempt. The paternal relationship constructed as Oedipus refers to his people as ‘children' serves to represent the city collectively, and therefore the city's sufferings may be construed as a metaphor for his own familial adversity. This concept of miasmic pollution, in which a whole community could be infected by the impious act of an individual, was central to ancient Greek theory. Most popularised within Greek tragedy was Orestes, who searched for purification for the murder of his mother. Therefore, a Greek audience would be familiar with this macrocosmic parallelism, but also more specifically, its historical significance within familial relationships, foreshadowing Oedipus’ hubris to a degree of dramatic irony. Knott argues that “The theme of King Lear is the decay and fall of the world”, which heavily reiterates the progressive chaos within the natural world of both plays to exemplify the catharsis that accompanies the destruction of familial bonds.

    Through the portrayal of Edmund and his desire for superiority within his familial dynamics, Shakespeare challenges the validity of societal convention. The presence of a father figure only within each family dynamic is a significant device, as Shakespeare replaces the maternal figure, often indicative of nurture, with masculine figures who encompass authority and riches, due to their elevated social positions.Within Edmund’s first soliloquy, he questions “Wherefore should I/ Stand in the plague of custom”, arguing that he has allowed the “curiosity of nations to deprive [him]”. In a Jacobean society, the audience would have a firm belief in 'the great chain of being’, in which an illegitimate child born out of wedlock would have no rights to claim inheritance in a system known as primogeniture. The semantic satiation when Edmund repeats ‘legitimate’, or more appropriately the plosive reiteration of ‘base' to convey his disgust, serves to render this concept meaningless. The abundance of rhetorical questions of “Why *******? wherefore base?” within this passage, combined with the soliloquy form- which establishes a connection between Edmund and the audience- is particularly effective in implementing a provocative quality. This ultimately invites the audience to question the validity of such societal constructs based on familial hierarchy. Edmund's use of deceit throughout the plot, such as “(pocketing the letter)”, despite Shakespeare’s minimal use of stage directions, draws particular focus upon the Machiavellian politics from which Shakespeare was inspired. Machiavelli’s ‘The Prince' justified the use of of deception for financial and authoritarian gain. This is illuminated when Oedipus similarly betrays his familial bond with Creon by virtue of unsubstantiated accusations that allude to this Machiavellian nature; asserting that he is “hunting for absolute power”, reflecting a predatory quality. Furthermore, this supports Shakespeare’s presentation of Edmund and Edgar’s relationship, as there is particular focus upon deceit, as Creon defends himself from Oedipus’ "lying words” and states that “no mind that is sound could contemplate betrayal”. Although Oedipus’ accusations are inaccurate, Sophocles mirrors Shakespeare’s depiction that familial bonds are often deceived and betrayed as a means to achieve dominance.

    Shakespeare creates a commentary regarding the evolving position of women, due to the progressive presentation of the sisters and their relationships. Although women typically maintained a low social position in the time ‘King Lear' was written, the audience were not necessarily unfamiliar to the concept of powerful women, due to the Reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Following this accession, in 1558, John Knox issued a pamphlet attacking female rulers entitled ‘First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women’, arguing that giving ‘weak’ and ‘feeble’ women was a 'subversion of good order, off all equity and justice’. However, Shakespeare’s presentation of the sisters voids this assumption that women are inherently weak. Upon introduction to the sisters, they shortly begin conspiring against Lear in a vicious alliance between Goneril and Regan, intending to “do something, and i' th' heat.”. Within Act II scene IV, Goneril and Regan successfully eliminate Lear’s authority by the removal of his knights. Goneril questions "What need you five and twenty, ten, or five”, which progressively diminishes as Regan responds “What need one?”, illuminating their combined authority.

    Cordelia’s character is also not exempt from this progressive depiction, resisting Lear’s patriarchal demands for expressions of love within the opening scene. Expressing that she loves Lear “According to [her] bond” and that she will say "nothing". Not only does the use of 'nothing' behave as a source of foreshadowing for Lear's mental and physical deterioration, but also represents a symbol of nihilism, which pessimistically reflects the superficial paternal relationship Lear shares with Goneril and Regan, which is effectively substanceless. In response to Cordelia, Lear “disclaims [his] paternal care” by the “mysteries of Hecate”. Hecate, typically represented as a three headed Goddess in Greek mythology may simply represent the three sisters as an aversive entity. Alternatively, through associations of witchcraft and the moon- which is frequently employed to depict the menstrual cycle- this Pagan reference to deity Hecate may represent a development in the liberation of women and their sexuality. Shakespeare's exploration of the supernatural world often extends beyond references to the gods, metamorphosing Goneril and Regan into grotesque beings such as "unnatural hags” to exemplify their anachronistic malevolence. By virtue of this, Shakespeare simultaneously affirms Knox’ statement regarding the ‘subversion of good order’, in a predominantly patriarchal society. However, Heilman argues that “to be the father of Goneril is to create a symbol of the evil brought forth from oneself” rendering these qualities as an extension of Lear and therefore symbolically, the patriarchy. This subversion is epitomised by the reversal of familial roles, as Lear expresses that he “thought to set [his] rest/ On [Cordelia’s] kind nursery”. This reverts Lear to the portrayal of the child within this dynamic, particularly through Shakespeare’s lexical choice of ‘nursery’. This is also substantiated when Lear states that he will spend his retirement "crawl[ing] toward death", which is heavily indicative of his adaptation of a child-like role- juxtaposing the seizing of maternal authority by his daughters. This maternal approach is adapted by Sophocles, not only as a technique of dramatic irony, but also to signify the extent of Oedipus' downfall within a patriarchal society. Since Jocasta signifies the role of wife and mother, this potentially confines her character into the role of domesticity in preservation of the 'good order’. However, alternatively the maternal dimension may provide her character with an element of authority over Oedipus. The entrance of Jocasta within the Second Episode is accompanied with this maternal tone, questioning “What folly is this?”, where the use of “folly” alludes to a degree of immature senseless whilst condemning the public stichomythia of Oedipus and Creon. Although Jocasta’s role is not necessarily reversed as that of Lear's daughters, the empowerment of women in both plays parallels the ‘hamartia’ of each respective King and ultimately portrays a dichotomy within the familial relationship which creates antithesis between paternal and maternal authority.

    Familial relationships within ‘King Lear’ are used in synonymity with the natural environment and wider societal concepts in order to universalise the issues presented within the play. Although progressive in its nature, ‘King Lear’ is somewhat constrained by its lack of a maternal figure and therefore is only able to successfully depict paternal relationships. Contrastingly, Sophocles, through his presentation of Jocasta and Oedipus’ various paternal relationships with his children and people, is able to wholly depict the pitfalls faced within familial relationships. Despite this, both plays effectively reflect the cataclysmic consequences that characterise the disintegration of typically unconditional familial relationships.

    1703 words

    Hope this helped anyway!
    • Thread Starter
    Offline

    1
    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by Katiecartwright)
    These are the essays, I'll just post them here if that's okay, way too many characters for a message!

    Explore Shakespeare’s Interest in Deception in ‘King Lear’ and Show how far your understanding and appreciation of his treatment of this issue have been informed by your reading of ‘Oedipus Rex’

    Shakespeare's 'King Lear' fundamentally commentates the diversity of the human condition and therefore provides insight into the inner workings of society with particular focus upon deceit. Shakespeare addresses the theme of deceit by depicting the contrasts between malignant or benign deception, but most importantly also highlights the damaging nature of self deceit. Similarly, within 'Oedipus Rex', Sophocles capably narrates the downfall of Oedipus who, whilst unable to sacrifice his pride, unknowingly deceives himself and those around him.

    Shakespeare depicts characters who behave deceitfully as a means to achieve power. Edmund's intentional linguistic deception is illuminated by the contrasts between his lexis within the first two scenes of the play. Initially, Shakespeare crafts Edmund's vocatives of 'lordship' and sir' to be indicative of respect; which directly contradicts his energetic desires to 'top th' legitimate'- his brother Edgar- within the next scene. This contrast in language not only voids Edmund's respectful qualities towards those around him and the audience itself, but also demonstrates a rejection of societal expectations of the time- in which an illegitimate child would have no legal validation to claim inheritance. Since the repetitive use of 'legitimate' is a source of semantic satiation, Edmund seemingly renders his lowly social status as meaningless, however this is arguably an example of self deceit, as his words hold no true authority. This alludes to Edmund's lack of respect towards the 'great chain of being', among other social constructs, is a source of his deceitful behaviour. Furthermore, the stage directions within the scene as Edmund is seen to be "(pocketing the letter)", exemplifies his secrecy to a degree of irony, since his plans depend on Gloucester's knowledge of the letter, ultimately reinforcing Edmund's calculative and manipulative qualities. This irony is substantiated by Gloucester's questioning why Edmund "so earnestly seek you to put up that letter?", as Shakespeare's use of 'earnest' juxtaposes the theme of deception. However, this could conversely represent Gloucester's short-sighted trust in Edmund, which only contributes to his villainous depiction of a deceiver by virtue of Gloucester's naivety, which is reinforced by his uncertainty; “Hum, conspiracy?”. Furthermore, this is not the only example of Edmund's deliberate deception regarding the inconsistencies of his character. Edmund expresses explicit disgust in astrology, in that that humanity makes "guilty of our disasters the sun", whilst later states “Oh, these eclipses do portend these divisions!”. In this respect, Edmund is decisively 'Machiavellian'- using deceit and dismissing moral principle in order to gain authority. This suggests that Shakespeare's characterisation of Edmund is directly inspired by Italian political theorist Machiavelli and his publication of 'The Prince' in the sixteenth century, which justifies this use of immoral means. This is reflected within 'Oedipus Rex', as Oedipus accuses Creon of "Hunting for absolute power", which although false, parallels the themes of gaining authority by virtue of deceit, as demonstrated by Edmund. The term 'hunting' itself embodies the ruthless characteristics of Machiavellian politics and therefore reiterates Shakespeare's intentions to employ an undertone of viciousness in order to accompany the themes of deceit.

    Goneril and Regan also behave as a recurring source of deception to Lear, by virtue of their obsequious qualities. When Lear requests their admissions of love, Goneril's hyperbolic assertion of 'Dearer than eye-sight, space, and liberty’ appears cumulative and excessive, corroborating Edmund's use of language to enact his deceit. Among the sycophantic utterances of Gonril and Regan is language indicative of materialism and superficiality, creating a distinction between the ‘true' words of Cordelia and the language used by her sisters- such as ‘prize' and ‘worth'. Eagleton argues that "'all' has been so radically devalued, Cordelia's murdered 'nothing' is the only sound currency", evoking the deterioration of meaning that accompanies such deceit. Goneril is depicted with recurring lines of animalistic imagery, as the Fool recalls an anecdote of a sparrow who "had it head bit off by it young", which foreshadows Goneril's deceptive betrayal, exacerbated by the destruction of the parent-child relationship. Similarly, the Fool also uses zoomorphism in order to analogise Goneril to “A fox when one has caught her/ And such a daughter". The 'fox' carries connotations of slyness and deceit, frequently appearing within folklore as a symbol of trickery. The feminine rhyming couplets within this assertion mocks Lear's metaphorical short-sightedness, as it creates a lyrical tone which trivialises the violent "slaughter" of Goneril subsequently suggested by the Fool, but alternatively indicates Lear's perceived simplistic naivety. The egotistical portrayal of the sisters is consistent with Sophocles' depiction of Oedipus, in that he is presented as tyrannical, asserting that "I hold power and sovereign authority". The lexis used by Sophocles within Oedipus' dialogue is heavily indicative of the assertion of dominance, similar to the sister's competitive attempts to obtain authority, which further reinforces power as a primary motive of deceit.

    Shakespeare also depicts elements of benign deception, primarily centred around Kent's ambitions to deceive in order to serve Lear. Although Kent deceives Lear by "other accents borrow", he also highlights his "good intent". Shakespeare's simple use of 'good' communicates Kent's humble nature and ultimately enhances the distinction between Kent's benign deception and the contrasting fabrication of Lear's daughters.This theme of disguise is also reiterated by Edgar's soliloquy in Act II Scene II, in which he aspires to "take the basest and most poorest shape" to evade capture. This demonstrates the unjust consequences of Edmund's deceit and furthermore validates Edgar's use of disguise as benevolent. However, the use of 'base' may conversely parallel the language choices within Edmund's previous soliloquy and therefore highlights their societal role reversal, illuminating the relationship between deceit and power and more pessimistically, morality and the diminution of status. Oedipus is also disguised as the perpetrator of the murder of Laius through his presentation as paternal yet capable leader, addressing the people of Thebes as 'children' and being assigned the title of 'Famous Oedipus' by the Priest. As a polytheistic society, the priest figure in Greece would typically unite religion and government, unknowingly validating Oedipus' ethical disguise and therefore highlighting the flaws of unintentional deception. The Fool within 'King Lear' is also a significant device, as he is an 'artificial fool', able to criticise society and illuminate its flaws. In the Jacobean era, Fools would typically challenge the audience's perception of wisdom and truth, through the use of satirical role reversal and reign to comment on the actions of their social betters as an outsider, sustaining a choric function. Several critics have suggested that this witty role in particular was written by Shakespeare exclusively for comedic actor Robert Armin, demonstrating the specificity of the Fool and therefore his unmistakable importance in not only illuminating the deceit of Goneril and Regan, but more widely challenging Lear's own self deception. However, the Fool expresses desire to execute benign deception, as he affectionately calls Lear "nuncle" whilst simultaneously commenting that "I would fain learn to lie", reflecting the burden of the truth. The role of the Chorus within 'Oedipus Tyrannus' is similar to that of the Fool, as it behaves as an intermediary, consolidating the truths of the play to the audience. However, the Chorus is the main source of universalism within 'Oedipus Rex', contrasting with Shakespeare's use of plot parallels to maintain its relevance among a modern audience.

    Shakespeare also addresses Lear's self deception, particularly regarding the sincerity of the characters that surround him. As Lear banishes Kent, he exclaims “Hear me, recreant!”, which is particularly effective in illuminating a miscalculated element of self deceit, as labelling Kent as unfaithful is not only untrue- but extremely so, as Kent returns faithfully within Scene IV hoping to serve Lear- voiding the assertion that Kent is untrustworthy. Furthermore, the exclamative used by Shakespeare reinforces Lear's impulsiveness, which is used in conjunction with Lear's metaphorically 'blind' presentation to depict his 'hubris'. Similarly, within 'Oedipus Rex', the King figure is surrounded by themes of self deceit. Oedipus is confidently convinced that Tiresias, a mythological figure said to have experienced life as both man and woman, aims to deceive him. Although Tiresias' prophecies are often doubted within Greek tragedies, he is never shown to be false. The utterances between Tiresias and Oedipus are stichomythic, quickening the pace of their interaction as the King accuses the prophet of "Vicious slander" and "revelling in these accusations". This structural decision allows Sophocles to convey Oedipus as belligerent as he personally insults Tiresias, branding him a "Poor fool" in an attempt to elevate himself into the superior role within the dynamic, encompassing his pride as the motive for his self deceit. Furthermore, Oedipus brands Tiresias as a "swindling sorcerer", which reflects the exposure of 'quack oracle-mongers' exhibited within Aristophanes' 'Birds and Peace'. However, Oedipus' displays of ignorance is what manifests his own self deceit, as Tiresias asserts that he is 'blind' and therefore deceiving himself in defiance of the Gods. Griffith argues that Oedipus' tragic fulfilment of Apollo's prophecy "stresses the need for self-understanding", which is delineated by his hamartia and ultimate downfall. The flaws of typically bureaucratic characters is epitomised by the imagery used within both plays of sight; Kent urges the King to "See Better, Lear" due to his notorious "poor judgement". 'Oedipus Rex' particularly illuminates the importance of Lear's presumptuous rage, as both characters reach unsubstantiated conclusions which behave as a source of their relative diminutions.

    Although deceit is portrayed to varying degrees of immorality within 'King Lear', Shakespeare exemplifies its abundance across a spectrum of characters; reflecting the continuity of the human condition and ultimately universalises the persistence of deceit within modern circumstances. Sophocles also illuminates these themes, but whilst conforming to the 'three unities', places intense focus upon the plot of Oedipus' self deceit and the accusations of deceit towards the characters around him. However, both plays are united in their prominent criticism of the impulsive who, whilst preoccupied with self deceit, cause the destruction of familial relationships and ultimately themselves.

    1,645 words

    Examine Shakespeare’s dramatic use of the Fool in ‘King Lear’ in the light of Sophocles’ presentation of the Chorus

    Shakespeare’s ‘King Lear’ provides an explorative commentary regarding the human condition, using the Fool as a device of criticism and ironic wisdom regarding Lear's fictitious majesty. Similarly, within ‘Oedipus Tyrannus’, Sophocles’ use of the Chorus contributes a unique perspective, somewhat abstract from the ‘Classical Unities’ of Greek theatre, in their ability to solidify and universalise the abiding significance of the themes within the play. Despite the incorporation of humour by virtue of Lear’s Fool, both plays are united in their dramatic and functional use of a choric role to contribute additional and often emotionally provocative dimensions to the plot.

    Throughout ‘King Lear’, Shakespeare adapts the Fool’s critical commentary as a device to accentuate the downfalls of the characters surrounding him, by virtue of the changing dynamics of authority. Upon the Fool’s introduction, he “(offers KENT his cap)” symbolic for supporting Lear despite his misjudgements in banishing Cordelia. This use of stage directions, despite their general infrequency throughout, illustrates the emphasis of the Fool's judgemental characteristics for theatrical effect. Although the Fool is distinctively an ‘artificial fool’, a historical archetype who retained license to comment on their superiors, the stereotypically low status of fools in the Jacobean era dictates that criticisms of Lear are emphasised, encompassing the extent of his hamartia. The Fool humorously criticises how Lear has “mad'st thy/ daughters thy mothers” and “gav'st them/ the rod and put'st down thine own breeches”. Shakespeare employs this masochistic metaphor to illustrate the disintegration of Lear’s paternal authority into an “obedient father” which is polarised with his daughter’s acquisition of a sadistic maternal role. Conversely, the ‘rod’ may be perceived as a phallic symbol in order to humorously epitomise their ascent to power in a patriarchal society. The Chorus within ‘Oedipus Tyrannus' is composed of ‘elders’, which mirrors a degree of superiority and wisdom observed within the Fool, allowing them to potentially criticise their respective Kings. However, choral songs and dances are thought to have developed in order to honour Dionysus, which contrasts with the Fool’s patronising attitude towards Lear. For example, the Fool encourages Lear to “beg another [coxcomb] of thy daughters”. The lexical choice of “beg” is particularly effective in signifying the reversal of roles, not only between Lear and his daughters, but also with the Fool. Commonly within ancient tragedies, the Chorus did little to prevent lamenting events. However, within ‘Oedipus Tyrannus’, the Chorus serves the practical function of preventing Oedipus’ banishment of Creon during their ‘agōn’ and public stichomythia, urging them to “stop this, my lords”. Sophocles’ use of imperative language illustrates commonality between these works, as both the Fool and Chorus provide assertive yet practical functions, particularly in their attempts to preserve the sanity of their rulers and help them see reason, to varying degrees of authority.

    Structurally, the Fool contributes elements of humour to the play and therefore dictates its fluctuating intensity. The role of Lear’s Fool is thought to have been specifically crafted for ‘Lord Chamberlain’s Men’ member Robert Armin, who famously metamorphosed the role of the fool from the rustic servingman into a character of high-comedy domestic wit. Houston argues that if there were anyone suitable to “explore with Shakespeare the shadows and fitful flashes of the borderland of insanity, that player was Armin." This demonstrates the Fool's undeniable importance within the play and unique relationship with Shakespeare himself, initially inspiring the creation of Feste in ‘Twelfth Night’, who was similarly considered a “world-wisely fool”. During Act II Scene VI, Lear begins a mock trial of Goneril and Regan, which contains an abundance of comedic qualities. Whilst singing, the Fool metaphorically references the menstrual cycles of the sisters, asserting that "Her boat hath a leak”, in order to diminish them into their most simple of functions as fertile women. This parallels the previous diminution of Lear at the hands of his daughters as Goneril questions, in reference to his knights, "What need you five and twenty, ten, or five”, to which Regan responds “What need one?” This numerical reduction behaves as a symbol of Lear's powerlessness, which is in turn parodied by the Fool’s misogynistic menstrual reference. This provides humour and a sense of redemption for Lear, exempt from modern controversies as women maintained a low social status within the Jacobean period. Despite its bawdy nature, this remark is written in verse, contrasting with the bawdy prose of Gloucester within the First Act, despite his nobility. This is significant because a Jacobean audience would famously “hear a play” and the use of verse alludes to a sense of justice that is administered by the Fool, who remains unscrutinised for his inappropriate humour. Furthermore, The Fool's ultimate departure signifies the proceeding zenith of cruelty- the blinding of Gloucester- and the descent towards the pathos inevitably experienced by the audience. Therefore, the comedy that has been lost by the absence of the Fool signifies the disintegration of hope within the play. Despite a lack of comedy in its conformation to the genre of tragedy, the Chorus within ‘Oedipus Tyrannus’ also performs distinct structural and plot functions. The Chorus shares these elements of dramatic relief through sung odes in lyric metres of rich language, similar to the form of the songs of the Fool. Most prominently, the Third Stasimon written in the form of a hyporchema, provides a sense of joy in which the Chorus speculates Oedipus’ origins whilst he is “honoured in dance.” Segel claims this is "the only moment of sustained joy in the play”, performing the dramatic function of accentuating Oedipus’ later tragic revelations. This ultimately illuminates the importance of Lear’s Fool, demonstrating how the choric function provokes and often parallels the audience’s emotional response to the play.

    Shakespeare’s presentation of the Fool’s admirable complexity challenges societal hierarchies and preconceptions of human worth. By interrogating if Lear can differentiate “between a bitter fool and a sweet fool”, Shakespeare provides the Fool with a platform of superiority, in which he is able to question the validity of Lear's judgement. However, alternatively the antithesis between these gustatory semantics metaphorically parallels the Fool's dualistic characteristics of reason and loyalty embodied by the use of “bitter” and “sweet” respectively. These characteristics are exemplified by the Fool's protection of Lear during the tempest and the genuine love for Cordelia for whom he “hath much pined away”. Shakespeare therefore negates the validity of the ‘great chain of being’, in which the King remained irrefutably superior. For Renaissance thinkers, humans occupied a unique position within this hierarchy, possessing divine powers of reason and love whilst bound to the confines of physicality and therefore their own passions. Ironically, the Fool is one of very few characters that expresses this ‘divine power’ of reason, which in turn challenges the preconceptions of a Jacobean audience, as the Fool’s impact extends beyond his status. The Fool is also presented enigmatically, not returning after his appearance in the Third Act, stating ambiguously "And I'll go to bed at noon”. This may simply refer to the chaotic subversion of the natural order which is a central theme to the play, but also may carry more sinister connotations. Trevor Nunn’s film production of ‘King Lear’ depicts the physical hanging of the Fool, an alternative interpretation which is substantiated by Lear’s assertion that “my poor fool is hanged” later in the play and the concept that the Fool will 'go to bed’, representing the finality of death. The closure that is achieved by Nunn contradicts Shakespeare’s intentional ambiguity, and therefore an element of intrigue is lost in comparison to the play. Furthermore, the Fool also retains prophetic qualities, stating “So out went the candle, and we were left darkling”, which contributes to dramatic foreshadowing of blindness and confusion within the play by virtue of the depiction of literal darkness. Throughout ‘Oedipus Tyrannus’, the Chorus is depicted with similarly juxtaposing elements. Sophocles divides the choral odes into 'strophe' and ‘antistrophe’, which translates to ‘turning’ and ‘turning back’. This structural dichotomy provides a necessary source of uncertainty and tension in a plot which had already been popularised. However, in contrast with Shakespeare’s criticism of societal preconception, this duality celebrates the irresolvable debate for which Greek tragedy is famous. Furthermore, the Chorus’ leader speaks in iambic verse, not confined to the lyrics which typically define the Chorus. This allows the actor to assimilate into the dialogue of the other characters whilst suggesting to Oedipus that, since Apollo began the enquiry “surely it is for him to say who committed the crime.” Therefore, the Chorus honours Apollo, as god of plague and prophecy, over the authority of Oedipus, in preservation of Greek tradition, mirroring the frequent undermining of Lear by the Fool. However, despite qualities of authority retained by both devices, they serve contrasting functions; Sophocles aims to preserve the significance of deity hierarchies within polytheistic societies, whereas Shakespeare challenges the validity of man-made hierarchies.

    Shakespeare successfully crafts the Fool as a multifunctional device with a choric function. Through its presentation of comedy; providing perspective to the extent of Lear’s hamartia and the Fool’s own complexity, ‘King Lear’ establishes a dramatic commentary which cautions the audience regarding excessive hubris and blind belief in futile social constructs. Conversely, the Chorus within ‘Oedipus Tyrannus’ serves to solidify the importance of the Gods and their sovereign authority over the concept of fate. However, both plays are united in their use of dramatic relief achieved by their respective lyrical intersections and their abilities to commentate and foreshadow events, which aids the dramatic tension established within both works.

    1,599 words

    Discuss Shakespeare’s portrayal of family relationships in ‘King Lear’. Show how far your appreciation and understanding of this theme have been informed by your study of ‘Oedipus Rex’.

    Familial relationships are a central theme to ‘King Lear’, reflected within the abundance of various allegories and motifs. Most prominently, the division of Lear’s Kingdom becomes heavily synonymous with the destruction of the paternal and sibling relationships which are copious throughout the play. Within ‘Oedipus Tyrannus', Sophocles takes an alternative approach to the depiction of familial relationships, based upon the ignorance of the king and his ‘hubris’. However, both plays are united in the suffering they depict as a consequence of the breaking of familial bonds, reflected within the natural world.

    Shakespeare parallels the betrayal of family relationships with occurrences within natural world in order to illuminate its universally devastating effects. Gloucester betrays Edmund upon disrespectfully introducing him to Kent as a “whoreson", describing his conception that had “been at [his] charge.” Since Gloucester's utterances are written in prose, which are typically reserved for the lower class, Shakespeare confirms the unsavoury nature of this bawdy interaction, provoking criticism for his character as an unappreciative father. This is significant, as a Jacobean audience would famously "hear a play" and therefore sustain the ability to differentiate between verse and prose. During the second scene, Gloucester states that “late eclipses in the sun and moon portend no good to us”, which signifies the wider relationship between astrology and the human condition, particularly familial interactions. This unnatural breakdown of the familial bond is reflected within the pathetic fallacy of the storm in the third Act of the play; an interaction between the macrocosm and Lear’s microcosm. This is demonstrated by Lear's direct communication with nature ordering the wind to “Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! Rage, blow!”. The personification of the storm with ‘cheeks’ indicates that the natural world may be consciously punishing Lear for his previous misjudgments in banishing Cordelia. However, this personification may conversely represent Lear’s unity with the tempest as an extension of his own rage, as velar 'crack' embodies his resentment by virtue of its harsh phonology. Furthermore, this imperative exclamatory reflects the power that Lear persists to believe he sustains over his daughters, until he is reduced to a “poor, infirm, weak, and despised old man” later within the scene. In this respect, the severity which accompanies this breakdown of typical parental discord manifests on a scale of national and cosmic proportions.

    Within Oedipus, the plague- which manifests as a result of the betrayal of Oedipus’ relationship with his biological mother- is depicted within the Prologue as “a plague hated by all”. This reflects the universal suffering conveyed by the tempest within ‘King Lear’, the use of ‘hated' signifies that it is met with similar contempt. The paternal relationship constructed as Oedipus refers to his people as ‘children' serves to represent the city collectively, and therefore the city's sufferings may be construed as a metaphor for his own familial adversity. This concept of miasmic pollution, in which a whole community could be infected by the impious act of an individual, was central to ancient Greek theory. Most popularised within Greek tragedy was Orestes, who searched for purification for the murder of his mother. Therefore, a Greek audience would be familiar with this macrocosmic parallelism, but also more specifically, its historical significance within familial relationships, foreshadowing Oedipus’ hubris to a degree of dramatic irony. Knott argues that “The theme of King Lear is the decay and fall of the world”, which heavily reiterates the progressive chaos within the natural world of both plays to exemplify the catharsis that accompanies the destruction of familial bonds.

    Through the portrayal of Edmund and his desire for superiority within his familial dynamics, Shakespeare challenges the validity of societal convention. The presence of a father figure only within each family dynamic is a significant device, as Shakespeare replaces the maternal figure, often indicative of nurture, with masculine figures who encompass authority and riches, due to their elevated social positions.Within Edmund’s first soliloquy, he questions “Wherefore should I/ Stand in the plague of custom”, arguing that he has allowed the “curiosity of nations to deprive [him]”. In a Jacobean society, the audience would have a firm belief in 'the great chain of being’, in which an illegitimate child born out of wedlock would have no rights to claim inheritance in a system known as primogeniture. The semantic satiation when Edmund repeats ‘legitimate’, or more appropriately the plosive reiteration of ‘base' to convey his disgust, serves to render this concept meaningless. The abundance of rhetorical questions of “Why *******? wherefore base?” within this passage, combined with the soliloquy form- which establishes a connection between Edmund and the audience- is particularly effective in implementing a provocative quality. This ultimately invites the audience to question the validity of such societal constructs based on familial hierarchy. Edmund's use of deceit throughout the plot, such as “(pocketing the letter)”, despite Shakespeare’s minimal use of stage directions, draws particular focus upon the Machiavellian politics from which Shakespeare was inspired. Machiavelli’s ‘The Prince' justified the use of of deception for financial and authoritarian gain. This is illuminated when Oedipus similarly betrays his familial bond with Creon by virtue of unsubstantiated accusations that allude to this Machiavellian nature; asserting that he is “hunting for absolute power”, reflecting a predatory quality. Furthermore, this supports Shakespeare’s presentation of Edmund and Edgar’s relationship, as there is particular focus upon deceit, as Creon defends himself from Oedipus’ "lying words” and states that “no mind that is sound could contemplate betrayal”. Although Oedipus’ accusations are inaccurate, Sophocles mirrors Shakespeare’s depiction that familial bonds are often deceived and betrayed as a means to achieve dominance.

    Shakespeare creates a commentary regarding the evolving position of women, due to the progressive presentation of the sisters and their relationships. Although women typically maintained a low social position in the time ‘King Lear' was written, the audience were not necessarily unfamiliar to the concept of powerful women, due to the Reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Following this accession, in 1558, John Knox issued a pamphlet attacking female rulers entitled ‘First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women’, arguing that giving ‘weak’ and ‘feeble’ women was a 'subversion of good order, off all equity and justice’. However, Shakespeare’s presentation of the sisters voids this assumption that women are inherently weak. Upon introduction to the sisters, they shortly begin conspiring against Lear in a vicious alliance between Goneril and Regan, intending to “do something, and i' th' heat.”. Within Act II scene IV, Goneril and Regan successfully eliminate Lear’s authority by the removal of his knights. Goneril questions "What need you five and twenty, ten, or five”, which progressively diminishes as Regan responds “What need one?”, illuminating their combined authority.

    Cordelia’s character is also not exempt from this progressive depiction, resisting Lear’s patriarchal demands for expressions of love within the opening scene. Expressing that she loves Lear “According to [her] bond” and that she will say "nothing". Not only does the use of 'nothing' behave as a source of foreshadowing for Lear's mental and physical deterioration, but also represents a symbol of nihilism, which pessimistically reflects the superficial paternal relationship Lear shares with Goneril and Regan, which is effectively substanceless. In response to Cordelia, Lear “disclaims [his] paternal care” by the “mysteries of Hecate”. Hecate, typically represented as a three headed Goddess in Greek mythology may simply represent the three sisters as an aversive entity. Alternatively, through associations of witchcraft and the moon- which is frequently employed to depict the menstrual cycle- this Pagan reference to deity Hecate may represent a development in the liberation of women and their sexuality. Shakespeare's exploration of the supernatural world often extends beyond references to the gods, metamorphosing Goneril and Regan into grotesque beings such as "unnatural hags” to exemplify their anachronistic malevolence. By virtue of this, Shakespeare simultaneously affirms Knox’ statement regarding the ‘subversion of good order’, in a predominantly patriarchal society. However, Heilman argues that “to be the father of Goneril is to create a symbol of the evil brought forth from oneself” rendering these qualities as an extension of Lear and therefore symbolically, the patriarchy. This subversion is epitomised by the reversal of familial roles, as Lear expresses that he “thought to set [his] rest/ On [Cordelia’s] kind nursery”. This reverts Lear to the portrayal of the child within this dynamic, particularly through Shakespeare’s lexical choice of ‘nursery’. This is also substantiated when Lear states that he will spend his retirement "crawl[ing] toward death", which is heavily indicative of his adaptation of a child-like role- juxtaposing the seizing of maternal authority by his daughters. This maternal approach is adapted by Sophocles, not only as a technique of dramatic irony, but also to signify the extent of Oedipus' downfall within a patriarchal society. Since Jocasta signifies the role of wife and mother, this potentially confines her character into the role of domesticity in preservation of the 'good order’. However, alternatively the maternal dimension may provide her character with an element of authority over Oedipus. The entrance of Jocasta within the Second Episode is accompanied with this maternal tone, questioning “What folly is this?”, where the use of “folly” alludes to a degree of immature senseless whilst condemning the public stichomythia of Oedipus and Creon. Although Jocasta’s role is not necessarily reversed as that of Lear's daughters, the empowerment of women in both plays parallels the ‘hamartia’ of each respective King and ultimately portrays a dichotomy within the familial relationship which creates antithesis between paternal and maternal authority.

    Familial relationships within ‘King Lear’ are used in synonymity with the natural environment and wider societal concepts in order to universalise the issues presented within the play. Although progressive in its nature, ‘King Lear’ is somewhat constrained by its lack of a maternal figure and therefore is only able to successfully depict paternal relationships. Contrastingly, Sophocles, through his presentation of Jocasta and Oedipus’ various paternal relationships with his children and people, is able to wholly depict the pitfalls faced within familial relationships. Despite this, both plays effectively reflect the cataclysmic consequences that characterise the disintegration of typically unconditional familial relationships.

    1703 words

    Hope this helped anyway!
    Thank you so much!!
 
 
 
Poll
Do you agree with the PM's proposal to cut tuition fees for some courses?
Useful resources

Make your revision easier

OMAM

Ultimate Of Mice And Men Thread

Plot, context, character analysis and everything in between.

Notes

Revision Hub

All our revision materials in one place

Love books

Common grammar and vocabulary problems

Get your questions asked and answered

Useful literary websitesStudy help rules and posting guidelines

Groups associated with this forum:

View associated groups

The Student Room, Get Revising and Marked by Teachers are trading names of The Student Room Group Ltd.

Register Number: 04666380 (England and Wales), VAT No. 806 8067 22 Registered Office: International House, Queens Road, Brighton, BN1 3XE

Write a reply...
Reply
Hide
Reputation gems: You get these gems as you gain rep from other members for making good contributions and giving helpful advice.