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Forum nameReading Challenges, 2010
Topic subject2. King Lear by William Shakespeare
Topic URLhttp://www.fmwriters.com/community/dc/dcboard.php?az=show_topic&forum=505&topic_id=6&mesg_id=133
133, 2. King Lear by William Shakespeare
Posted by alissaameth, Tue Jan-12-10 04:37 PM
Play - Tragedy, 145 pages.

The first time I read this play (maybe four years ago), I hated it because I thought it was boring, difficult to understand and... I don't know--long-winded, maybe. (It was the first time I didn't love something by Shakespeare, so a dislike of the style wasn't the problem.) I read it in a high school class and just didn't enjoy it. This second reading was much more enjoyable! I was pleasantly surprised, and now I'm not sure why I didn't like it before. I expect that it has something to do with my own growth as a reader, since the text obviously hasn't changed. There are still tricky passages that are harder for me to understand, but it didn't stop my enjoyment of or involvement with the story. In fact, I expect to read it again.

Just as I did four years ago, I still think King Lear is an annoying and deranged character. I am not sympathetic for him at all. Fortunately, despite the fact that he's the title character, the play is more about the people around him.

The play begins with King Lear's intention--having grown old and weary--to divide his kingdom among his three daughters according to their eloquence in professing their love for him. The first two daughters please him with their words, but the third disappoints him when she "...cannot heave/{Her} heart into {her} mouth" (I.i.93-94). The angry king banishes her and divides the kingdom among the older two sisters and their husbands. As it turns out--according to actions and not words--it is the third daughter who loves him the best.

The sub-plot: One of the king's earls has two sons: one legitimate and one bastard. The illegitimate one conspires against his brother and father in order to reach a status of power and recognition that the circumstance of his conception denies him. He involves himself in the political and military going-ons of the rest of the cast and (seems to) be successful in shutting his brother out. The sub-plot starts off seeming entirely separate from the main plot, but the two become more and more intertwined until a final show-down in which all the plot threads are tied off together. Very satisfying!

I love Shakespeare's use of language and how he manages to tap into emotions. I could hear the characters expressing themselves--generally in such strong terms that I could almost feel them shaking. For instance, even though the illegitimate son is a villain, I couldn't help but root for him because I felt that his passion should count for something even if his deeds were wrong. He might actually be my favorite character.