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Explore the significance of the aspects of dramatic tragedy in the following passage in relation to the play as a whole. (This is a passage based question Act 3 Scene 7)
Within this passage, Shakespeare demonstrates the topsy-turvy world of King Lear through the use of the characterisation of the characters. Gloucester who is symbolic of the old world, where qualities like social hierarchy and masculinity are respected, is contrasted,by Regan and Cornwall. Regan and Cornwall are symbolic of the new world, where qualities like duplicity, disrespect and violence are valued. We can argue that the tragedy of this scene lies within it’s setting, as it is extremely tragic how Gloucester is being blinded within his own home by those of a younger generation. Social hierarchy and structure are disrupted in this scene through Regan and Cornwall’s poor treatment of Gloucester their elder, who by the rules of Jacobean hospitality, is meant to be respected by those younger than him- however, this is not the case here. As the audience gains respect for Gloucester, our pity for him also increases- even though he is physically binded, he still does what he can, by verbally assulting Regan, as he ‘would not see they cruel nails pluck out his poor eyes’. Not only is this forshadowing of Gloucester’s horrible fate to come, Shakespeare demonstrates how Gloucester’s verbal attacks here are futile, it is the villains in this scene who are the dominate ones. This is an inherent flaws of the old world order- as by the time they gain ‘clear-sightedness’ to see the true intents of the anatagonists it is tragic timing, as they are already rendered powerless. Many Jacobean audience members, and even audience members of the 21st century would find this scene extremely upsetting as Gloucester is not only kicked out of his own castle but is let to ‘smell his way to Dover’, like some sort of lowly animal. This ultimately shows Gloucester’s rapid reduction in power. Another way Shakespere presents the ‘topsy-turvy’ world of King Lear, is through the servants. The 1st servant in this scene embodies the theme of disorder of chaos in the ‘topsy-turvy’ world of King Lear Servants are meant to silently follow their masters commands however in this scene Cornwall’s authority is challeged by a common servant therfore hierachy is ultimately disrupted againn , “that has know (Cornwall) ever since he was a child”. It can be argued to an extent that this servant shows values of the old world order and unlike the new world order he lets his actions speak for himself -‘they draw and fight, he wounds Cornwall’.The 1st servant is outraged at the disrespect Cornwall and Regan have shown Gloucester, “If you do wear a beard upon your chin, I would shake it on this quarrel”- saying this alone is disrespectful as in Jacobean society plucking an elderly man’s beard was seen as a sign of disrespect ironically this is what Regan has done to Glousceter. The servant then bravely fights Cornwall and stabs him. This servant brings hope to the audienecs as the servant portrays the fact that despite the domination of the antagonists within this play that some choose to still remain noble and on the ‘good side’. However, just like all members of the old world order, this servant shares in it’s flaws- even though the actions were commendable the servant is just a servant and is ultimately powerless compared to the King of Cornwall. The servants death shows the theme of disrespect as in the Jacobean era it was very disrespectful to stab an opponenet in the back which is what Regan does. Futhermore the fact that is was Regan- a woman who ‘kills the servant’ emphasises chaos and disorder as women of this era were ment to be subserviant to their husbands and await their orders however, Regan is breaking this tradition, therefore breaking gender and social normsby acting without her husbands permission.The other servants echo the audience’s reactions as they feel pity towards Gloucester. But they are also powerless in comparisson to the villains of this play the only thing they can do is hope ‘Heaven help him!’ The servanst have to call upon the help of an higher power as they are completely helpless, this increases the tragedy of this scene as ironically the evil characters are the ones who dominate this play.