King Lear

Essay by M4GGSHigh School, 11th grade October 2002

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Discuss what you think are the major themes/symbols that Shakespeare has constructed his play around and discuss their significance.

Throughout the play "King Lear" Shakespeare writes symbols with themes to help give the audience a fuller understanding of the issues involved and a dramatic unity to the whole. Nature is one of the main themes, Shakespeare frequently presents it in terms of what characters feel is natural or unnatural and the use of symbolism, associated with the natural world helps him to do this as throughout the play we are presented with conflicting views of nature and what is natural.

Lear's unnatural dealings lead to unnatural decisions and actions in others like when Lear makes the mistake of giving state and family power over to Gonerill and Regan. The same is true when Gloucester believes his 'bastard' son whom he mistakes for a 'Loyal and natural boy' is allowed to push out his legitimate son.

In both cases Lear and Gloucester's errors prove disastrous. Gloucester and Edmund each have their own different views on what they think is natural. At the beginning from the clever manipulation of Edmund, Gloucester acts rashly and ruthlessly when he believes his natural son Edgar has rebelled against him, putting himself in his unnatural son's power.

Edmund has many qualities including political ambition and willingness to use obscene methods to achieve his aims and forever directed to fulfilling his nature. As Edmund says himself, he is adaptable and ready to manipulate events to serve him:

Let me, if not by birth, have lands by wit;

All with me's meet that I can fashion


His ability to adopt the right tone in any situation helps him in his progress towards power. Edmund's ability to manipulate events to his favour, his ability to speak...