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King Lear, like many of Shakespeare’s other plays, is a tragedy. The main character learns a lesson about life that he or she had never known. The price of this lesson is usually a person or object close to the main character, and in some cases, even the life of the main character, this happens quite often in some of Shakespeare’s other plays. An example of this is when Romeo loses Juliet to suicide. Shakespeare, in his writing, usually included several themes in his plays. Two of the main themes in this play are hubris and humility.
Hubris, or overweening pride, is one of the main themes in King Lear. Lear is probably most affected by this disease out of all the characters. Lear demonstrated great hubris in dealing with his daughters. The old king called his daughters to him one day so that he could divide up his kingdom when he would die. Goneril and Regan, hid eldest daughters, proclaimed how they each loved their father and would do anything for him. They greatly exaggerated their feelings for their father and won great pieces of land for their false words. Lear took those words for the truth and denied all else. This relates to overwhelming pride because Lear did not see the real motivation behind his daughters words, land. He assumed that they loved him with all their heart because he had put a roof over their head and the daughters had grown up with every advantage. Lear failed to see what kind of real people his two oldest daughters were, conniving and selfish. Another case of overweening pride was how Lear treated his youngest daughter, Cordelia, with contempt. After Lear had divided up land for his two oldest daughters, he turned to Cordelia and waited for her elaborate speech on how much she loved him. Cordelia, unlike her sisters, told her father how she truly loved him, but refused to grovel for land. Cordelia freely admitted how much she loved her father, but that her heart would be shared with her future husband. With this simple statement, the reader could see that Cordelia loved her father and respected Lear enough to tell him the truth about how she felt. Hubris is one of man’s biggest follies. Hubris, in this play, shows what man can be like if they are too full of themselves. The consequences of Lear’s hubris was that he lost his kingdom and one loving daughter. If a man is filled with hubris, he cannot look at himself as a person and see what improvements can be made in his life. Being able to look at oneself and see his own flaws can show him how he can better his life and by proxy, better people that are around him.
Humility is also one of the main themes in King Lear. Edmund, the heir of Gloucester, shows a great sense of humility. He respects his father and always defers to him. He is not too full of pride to accept criticisms and advice from friendly sources like his father. Gloucester himself started out in this play as being arrogant, a typical nobleman. But he did care for his people and tried to make the best decisions for them. After his eyes are taken from him, some kind of change is made in his attitude. With the absence of his sight, Gloucester must let somebody lead him around. This is a big case of humility because Gloucester must first admit to himself that he needs help and cannot go anywhere or do anything for himself. Gloucester, figuratively speaking, swallows his pride and allows a guide to help him. Humility can be one of man’s greatest assets because it allows it allows one to strive to make himself a better person. Shakespeare uses the tool of humility in the play to help characters transcend their shortcomings. Gloucester may have lost his eyes but he gained a new insight into his life that helped him improve it.
In conclusion, hubris and humility contribute a great deal to the play. Shakespeare designed the play to show what a life is like when living with hubris and humility. When living with hubris, life is sometimes a lie because a person cannot look at themselves
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King Lear, British films, Virtue, Films, English-language films, Hubris, Humility, Goneril, Cordelia, Pride, Edmund, Ran
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