King Lear’s Madness essay

Consider any of the following statements/questions as possible paper topics. You may use any of them. In your paper, please include some source material [textual evidence]. Consider the class discussions, the themes we discussed, issues about all of these characters, symbolic imagery, plot issues, atmosphere, and tone. Using the language of the classroom and material from your notes and the book, you should be able to formulate a good 3-4 page essay any one of the plays. Remember your experience in English 101. A good paper is a developed idea. Develop an architecture, show evidence, conclude with summary and reiteration. That’s part of what makes a good academic paper. The following statements/questions should give you good direction.

You may choose ONLY 1 of the questions below here.

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  1. There are four villains in the play—Regan, Goneril, Cornwall, and Edmund. What does each want and in what ways do their motives overlap [if they do]?
  2. See Aristotle’s “Poetics” handout [Google Drive] for a breakdown of the criteria for tragedy [Hamartia, Anagnorisis, Peripety, Catharsis]. In what ways does the play contain these?
  3. Germain Greer described two strands in this play—one of optimism and one of rage against the reality of life [and death]. See handout on “Critical Views Since 1970” and explain.
  4. Derek Cohen argues that there are scapegoats in this play—“His or her physical removal, by death or exile, is a necessary precondition of the reestablishment of the cultural practices and norms…something, someone has to die for something else to be born..” Where exactly does this happen? What is the expected result and what happens instead—and more important, what does it suggest?
  5. There are two realms in the play—that of culture/civilization and that of nature. Is Shakespeare suggesting that civilization or culture is a glossing over of reality? How does the play express this idea?
  6. What is the function of the Fool [as a dramatic device] in the plot of Lear? Specifically…
  7. What, exactly, is it that has driven Lear mad? And is his madness justifiable?
  8. What is King Lear stripped of and how? His kingdom, his power, his clothes, his identity…
  9. Frank Kermode, Shakespeare critic, once remarked, “The problem with Lear is he “but slenderly knows himself.” If Lear’s problem is his inability to understand who and what he is, what is it that causes this? What is it inside of him? A fatal flaw? If so, what fatal flaw? Pride? Vanity? Elaborate…
  10. Frank Kermode also once said, “King Lear is a play about the end of the world.” In what way or ways is this true? Whose world is ending and how?
  11. In the play “King Lear” we see the king going from “king” to the “unaccommodated man,” we see the kingdom going from order to chaos, the people going from love to hatred, and custom giving way to nature. Explain this.
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