King Lear Themes

Theme is a pervasive idea presented in a literary piece.  King Lear , a masterpiece of William Shakespeare , has very thoughtful themes.  It presents the dilemma of human relations and exposes the dark sides of human nature, such as infidelity and ungratefulness.  Some of the major themes in King Lear have been discussed below.

Themes in King Lear

Age and the process of aging is a significant theme of the play , King Lear. When a person starts aging, he starts losing his significance. As King Lear starts aging, he starts making decisions about his kingdom and makes a bet on the persons expressing their profound love for them. However, old King Lear does not understand Cordelia is the loyal one. Sadly, he trusts the deceitful ones. On the other hand, Edmund also waits for his father, Gloucester, to die so that he could inherit something to win social legitimacy in the eyes of the social fabric he wants to live in. In fact, King Lear’s age heralds a new social circle forming around him where he is not the kingpin, but just a commoner having no authority as in the past. However, he wants to retain the same authority even in his old age, that seems impossible. That is why he admits of his being old and the desire for retirement without having to abandon his privileges. Therefore, old age and its attendant features of losing privileges.

Family Relations

Family relationships and family loyalty are equally prominent as King Lear checks the loyalty of his daughters through their love. Though superficially, love is in abundance, it becomes scary when it comes to its application and demonstration. Cordelia, however, shows true loyalty to her father by staying with him until the end when Goneril and Regan conspire to keep the old man out of their castles. Despite severe emotional consequences and legal and regal repercussions, Goneril and Regan do not budge from their stand of keeping the king out. Similarly, Gloucester’s act of fathering Edmund seems a matter of childishness for him and causes sufferings for all others. King Lear’s earlier act of seeing familial love through expressions of love seems to hinge upon the fact that he wants to ensure family loyalty and blindly trusts the one who vocally vows to love him but abandon him later.

Madness and ensuing foolishness is another major theme of the play, King Lear. However, most of the characters , including that of the king, try to determine their reasonable behavior toward the choice they have to make. However, most often, they fail to think clearly. It is because most of them, including the King himself, try to keep their own interests before them, ignoring the interests of others. That is why he puts the entire kingdom in harm’s way with the desire for power come what may . His irrational desire to hear only love and nothing else and then irrational decision to cling to power even after dividing his kingdom seems a foolish decision, bordering madness. That is why the court jester, mostly known as fool, appears to help King Lear realize the situation prevalent in his kingdom. He makes the king realizes his own madness about judging people.

Significance of Order

Order and its significance in the world is another major theme of the play, King Lear. It is clear from the very start that King Lear is disrupting this order. He brings chaos in his family and his country. His desire for seeming love, even if it is flattery, makes him reject those who want to bring order and calmness. He almost disowns Cordelia for her honesty and divides his kingdom among two undeserving daughters. This brings chaos on which the court jester makes a commentary. Interestingly, even the jester taunts him for throwing away his kingdom. In fact, where Cordelia and Kent bring order and strength, Edmund, Edgar, Goneril, and Regan are the forces who bring disorder and disruption. Even King Lear himself wants disruption as he finally curses his treacherous daughter.

King Lear tests the loyalty of his daughters and their husbands through a test. He asks them to tell him how much they love him. Regan and Goneril instantly shower praises on him, vowing their everlasting and strong love, while Cordelia, who actually takes care of him and loves him very much, only states that she loves him. The king was enamored of this superficial realization of the love of his daughters that he instantly considers both of them worthy of the heritage to share his kingdom. However, he does not take care of Cordelia. Instead, he instantly disinherits her. Despite this treatment, she stays loyal to her father, demonstrating that the relationships of father-daughter are not subject to property and divisions; rather, it is an enduring bond of loyalty.

The theme of justice is intertwined with the theme of royal authority. King Lear does injustice to his daughter, Cordelia, who, despite her intense love for her father, is thrown away, while Regan and Goneril’s deception is bought by King Lear. He, however, faces injustice at the hands of both of his daughters so much so that he is left in the stormy weather to bear the brunt of his own doing. Later, he repents over this injustice meted out to him, saying that he has faced punishment more than his sin. However, later he seeks justice through a mock trial. Another point of injustice is to Edmund committed by Gloucester that he is illegitimate, which makes him jealous of his brother for which he plans his brother’s exile and murder Cordelia. The punishment meted out to him by the end is another instance of justice.

Appearance and Reality

Appearance and reality is another important theme of the play. Lear believes in the false narrative of his daughters, Goneril and Regan, that they love her more than he can think. However, he equally turns away his attention from the reality that his daughter, Cordelia, loves him the most. The appearances of his two elder daughters fool him, and he ignores his daughter, who shows him true love and loyalty. Similarly, Edmond, the illegitimate son of Gloucester, does not accept this reality and conspires to discredit his brother, Edgar, the legitimate son.

Compassion and humanity is another thematic strand that runs parallel to other themes. Although King Lear sends Kent into exile, he still comes back to serve him as a farmer. He knows that the king has done a wrong and would soon face repercussions. So, when the king sees the jester, he feels sympathy and compassion for him. The king also tears down his clothes to show his sympathy for poor Tom when he sees such poor people facing problems in life.

Nature and its impacts, like the storm in the play, shows that the kingdom of King Lear is in turmoil on account of his own actions. The turns in weather conditions also reflect how King Lear faces mental instability that leads to his confusion and madness. This is actually, as stated by King Lear himself, a tempest in his mind reflected through nature.

Vision is a minor yet important theme of the play, which is evident in many ways. Sometimes in literally and sometimes symbolically. King Lear’s call to his daughters to demonstrate their love is a loss of his vision that cost him his kingdom.

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No Sweat Shakespeare

Appearance & Reality In Shakespeare

Shakespeare’s plays display countless themes, some of which develop through the body of plays as a whole. The idea, though, that people, events and things in our world are often not what they seem, is at the heart of all the plays. Indeed, some of the plays, for example A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest , are largely about the confusion between what is real and what is not. This theme of appearance and reality is one that runs through many of Shakespeare’s plays .

What is appearance and reality? Well, as Shakespeare himself put it: ‘ All that glitters is not gold .’ At its most simple level, the way some characters appear to the other characters on the one hand and the way they appear to the audience on the other is often different. Iago in Othello conceals his real nature behind a facade of honesty and is trusted by all, whereas, in his dealings with everyone he is manipulative and remorseless.  In Measure for Measure Angelo, apparently incorruptible, is in reality a deceitful sexual abuser. Macbeth takes Duncan into his home as a friend while planning to murder him, and acknowledges that ‘false face must hide what the false heart does know.’

Shakespeare’s plays are full of references to men who hide their evil natures behind smiles.  When Hamlet  thinks about his father’s murderer he comments ‘One may smile, and smile, and be a villain.’  Such observations  about men’s smiles fill the plays: ‘There’s daggers in men’s smiles’ ; ‘Why, I can smile, and murder whiles I smile’ ; ‘Some that smile have in their hearts, I fear, millions of mischief.’

The characters in Shakespeare’s plays often wear masks. The stage convention was that if a character was wearing a mask no-one would recognise him or her, so characters could appear to a friend as a stranger, or as anonymous, or hide his or her identity for any other purpose.

Shakespeare found disguise, another of the Elizabethan theatre’s conventions, most useful for his representation of appearance and reality. Disguise was a staple of the Elizabethan stage.

Several characters conceal their true identity behind disguises. The Duke of Kent, for example, banished by King Lear , determines to stay with him and look after him: he disguises himself as a servant. The device of disguise is highly dramatic and Shakespeare exploited it to the full.

One of Shakespeare’s favourite tricks was to disguise a girl as a boy. Probably the two most famous are Viola in Twelfth Night and Rosalind in As You Like It . In those cases everyone is deceived, regarding appearance as the reality.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is all about confusing appearance and reality. Shakespeare uses various devices to create confusion as to what is real and what is illusion. There are two worlds in the play, the fairy world and the human world. They operate harmoniously but separately. But in this play the fairy world intervenes in the human world and throws up all kinds of illusions as the action develops. The fairly king’s servant, Puck, plays tricks on the lovers and that makes things seem to be what they are not and bewilders them: Puck becomes confused himself and puts the love potion in the wrong young man’s eyes, further complicating matters. The four lovers are not only lost in the forest but have lost their grip on reality.

Shakespeare Themes by Play

Hamlet themes , Macbeth themes , Romeo and Juliet themes

Shakespeare Themes by Topic

Ambition, Appearance & Reality , Betrayal , Conflict , Corruption , Death , Deception , Good & Evil , Hatred , Order & Disorder , Revenge , Suffering , Transformation

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Themes in King Lear: The Theme of Blindness, Eyesight, Appearance vs. Reality & Others

Themes in King Lear: The Theme of Blindness, Eyesight, Appearance vs. Reality & Others

The theme of blindness in King Lear is perhaps the most discussed. I shall add to the discussion.

Cornwall and Regan poke out Gloucester’s eye in retaliation for his aiding of Lear. This physical blindness represents the symbolic blindness of Gloucester and Lear: (1) They are both blind to the intentions of their children, wrongfully banishing the loyal one and rewarding the devious ones; (2) They are blind to their responsibilities. Gloucester’s adultery leads to the illegitimate Edmund who causes strife in his kingdom. Lear’s abdication of the throne and handing over of power to self serving individuals leads to his downfall; (3) It is also apparent that Lear was blind to the needs of his people during his reign as evidenced by his remorse over not taking care of the less fortunate.

Along with blindness, madness plays an important role. The mad babblings of the fool carry wisdom much in the same way Lear finds wisdom as he goes mad. It is probable that Lear’s madness causes the tragedy as much as the tragedy causes his madness. Lear’s behavior in the play’s opening scene shows signs of mental illness, an illness that perhaps his most loyal daughter and most loyal servant recognize. This could be why the two remain loyal to the king, notwithstanding his ill treatment of them.

Appearance vs. Reality

Closely related to the theme of blindness in King Lear is the understanding of appearance vs. reality** . ** It, therefore, occupies the next spot in our discussion.

Nothing is as it seems in the play. The king isn’t really the king anymore. The good daughters are the bad daughters and the disowned daughter is the only true daughter. Edgar is the loyal son, but is made to look like a traitor while Edmund, the traitorous son, appears to be the savior of the family. The fool is wise and the wise are fools.

Disorder reigns as Goneril becomes the authority figure in her relationship with Albany, even taking over rule of the military. The sisters are anything but sisterly, attempting to win the heart of the ruthless Edmund, who has no heart. Poor Tom (Edgar) is a the son of a nobleman and Caius the beggar is actually the loyal Kent. Those who are loyal have every reason to be disloyal and those who are disloyal have every reason to be loyal.


Goneril and Regan from King Lear

A look at King Lear major themes must include a discussion of King Lear’s responsibilities and how is abdication brought forth negative consequences.

At the heart of all the problems present in the play is the lack of responsibility demonstrated by Lear and Gloucester. Lear, according to England’s divine right of kings, has a responsibility to his subjects, which he carelessly turns over to his two wicked daughters. In addition, he has responsibilities toward Cordelia, his youngest, to take care of her. Cordelia as well has a responsibility to take care of her father who is not in his right mind, something of which she is capable by merely exaggerating her love for him at the play’s opening.

Gloucester has a responsibility to his wife, which he does not live up to, having committed adultery. He also has a responsibility to his sons, one of which he banishes. It’s possible that his trust of Edmund stems from the guilt of bringing a bastard son into the world and the inherent shame Edmund has to bear.

If you found this analysis of King Lear themes helpful, check out other Shakespeare study guides at

This post is part of the series: King Lear Study Guide

Don’t be blinded by stupidity on your nest test. Read this study guide an inherit the kingdom of A students.

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'King Lear' Themes

Natural vs. culture: family roles, nature vs. culture: hierarchy, language, action, and legitimacy.

  • Master of Studies, University of Oxford
  • Bachelor of Arts, Brown University

The themes of King Lear are enduring and familiar even today. The master of language that he was, Shakespeare presents a play whose themes are seamlessly interwoven and difficult to separate.

This is an important theme in the play, as it brings about much of its action from the very first scene and connects to other central themes like language versus action, legitimacy, and perception. Edmund, for example, asserts that his status as illegitimate son is only a product of unnatural social constructs. He even goes so far as to suggest that he is more legitimate than his brother Edgar because he was born in a passionate—although dishonest—relationship, the product of two humans following their natural drives.

At the same time, however, Edmund disobeys the supposedly natural drive of a son loving his father, behaving so unnaturally as to plan to kill his father and brother. In the same “unnatural” way, Regan and Goneril plot against their father and sister, and Goneril even schemes against her husband. Thus, the play demonstrates a preoccupation with familial connections and their relationship to the natural versus the social.

Lear grapples with the theme of nature versus culture in a very different way, evidenced in what has become the legendary scene on the heath. The scene is rich in interpretations, as the image of the helpless Lear in the midst of a colossal storm is a powerful one. On one hand, the storm on the heath clearly reflects the storm in Lear’s mind. Just as he cries out, "Let not women’s weapons, water-drops, stain my man’s cheeks!" (Act 2, scene 4), Lear connects his own teardrops with the storm’s raindrops through the ambiguity of “water-drops.” In this way, the scene implies that man and nature are much more in tune than suggested by the unnatural cruelty of the family members depicted here.

At the same time, however, Lear attempts to establish a hierarchy over nature and thereby separate himself. Accustomed to his role as king, he demands, for example: "Blow, wind, and crack your cheeks!” (Act 3, Scene 2). While the wind does blow, it is obvious it does not do so because Lear has demanded it; instead, it seems like Lear is fruitlessly attempting to order the storm to do what it had already decided to do. Perhaps for this reason, Lear cries, “Here I stand your slave […] / but yet I call you servile ministers” (Act 3, Scene 2).

While Edmund grapples with the theme of legitimacy most clearly, Shakespeare presents it not just in terms of children born out of wedlock. Instead, he puts into question what “legitimacy” really means: is it just a word informed by societal expectations, or can actions prove a person legitimate? Edmund suggests that it is just a word, or perhaps hopes it is simply a word. He rails against the word “illegitimate,” which suggests he is not the real son of Gloucester. However, he ends up not acting like a real son, attempting to have his father killed and succeeding in having him tortured and blinded.

Meanwhile, Lear is also preoccupied with this theme. He attempts to give up his title, but not his power. However, he quickly learns that language (in this case, his title) and action (his power) cannot be separated so easily. After all, it becomes clear that his daughters, having inherited his title, no longer respect him as a legitimate king.

In a similar vein, in the first scene Lear is the one to align legitimate succession with being a faithful and loving child. Cordelia’s response to Lear’s demand for flattery centers on her assertion that she is his legitimate heir because of her actions, not because of her language. She says: “I love you according to my bond, no more no less" (Act I, Scene 1). Implicit in this assertion is that a good daughter loves her father deeply and unconditionally, so in knowing she loves him as a daughter should, Lear should rest assured of her affections—and therefore her legitimacy as both his daughter and his heir. Regan and Goneril, in contrast, are the ungrateful daughters who harbor no love for their father, showing that they do not deserve the land that he bequeaths upon them as his heirs.

This theme is most clearly manifested by the blindness on the part of certain characters to knowing who, exactly, to trust—even when it seems resolutely obvious to the audience. For example, Lear is fooled by Regan and Goneril’s flattering lies to him, and disdains Cordelia, even though it is obvious she is the most loving daughter.

Shakespeare suggests that Lear is blind because of the societal rules he has come to trust, which cloud his vision of more natural phenomena. For this reason, Cordelia suggests that she loves him as a daughter should, meaning, again, unconditionally. She relies, however, on her actions to prove her words; meanwhile, Regan and Goneril rely on their words to trick him, which appeals to Lear’s social—and less “naturally-informed”—instincts. In the same way, Lear baulks when Regan’s steward Oswald calls him “My lady’s father,” instead of “king,” rejecting the steward’s familial and natural designation rather than the social one. By the end of the play, however, Lear has grappled with the dangers of trusting too much in the societal, and cries upon finding Cordelia dead, “For, as I am a man, I think this lady / To be my child Cordelia” (Act 5, Scene 1).

Gloucester is another character who is metaphorically blind. After all, he falls for Edmund’s suggestion that Edgar is plotting to usurp him, when it is in fact Edmund who is the liar. His blindness becomes literal when Regan and Cornwall torture him and put out his eyes. In the same vein, he is blind to the damage he has caused by having betrayed his wife and slept with another woman, who birthed his illegitimate son Edmund. For this reason, the first scene opens up with Gloucester teasing Edmund for his illegitimacy, a theme obviously very sensitive for the often-spurned young man.

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The Theme of Appearance vs. Reality in Shakespeare’s Plays

Profile image of Raymond S Solga

A contrast between appearance and reality is one of the most important themes in Shakespeare’s plays. This theme is necessary for the progression from ignorance to knowledge that Shakespeare’s characters often go through, as in the case of King Lear, Othello, and Twelfth Night. In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, this theme permeates every aspect of the play. In Romeo and Juliet and The Merchant of Venice, mistaking appearance for reality is the action that produces the tragic and comic effect respectively. Whichever the case, it is used to both comic and tragic effect, providing a means for the conflict of the play to occur.

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This essay proposes an analysis based on Literary Semiotics in William Shakespeare’s King Lear, Macbeth and Othello. Few studies have been made in this area, not only because Semiotics is a much understudied area of Linguistics, but also due to the complexity of language in Shakespeare’s plays. This paper will begin with a small framework of Semiotics’ pioneers and will discuss the most basic notions of several semioticians (e.g. Saussure, Pierce, Jakobson and Eco). Moreover, the paper will explain how Semiotics and Structuralism were so influential in the development of Literary Theory. In the tragedies mentioned, the consistent repetition of several words is noticeable: nothing in King Lear, blood/bloody/bloodier in Macbeth and honest/honesty in Othello. These words have different meanings according to the context in which they are used. The same word can mean the exact opposite or have a sarcastic significance for the audience. A literary analysis is necessary to understand the alteration of meanings in the same word. With it, it is possible to have a better understanding of Shakespeare’s intent.

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A close reading of The Tragedy of Othello in light of the popularity of improvised commedia dell'arte in Italy at the time the play was written suggests that commedia dell'arte strongly influenced the composition of the play, but this influence has not been fully appreciated by Shakespeare scholarship. If this interpretation of the literary and historical evidence is persuasive, the play becomes a brilliant, satirical comedy derived from commedia dell'arte but with a disturbing, tragic ending, not the traditional romantic tragedy that has puzzled commentators. The question then becomes when and where the dramatist learned so much about the Italian commedia dell'arte to be able to draw on it so extensively in Othello and other plays. In this new reading, the seven principal characters, from Othello the general to Emilia the maid, have their prototypes in characters of commedia dell'arte. Much of the action reflects the rough comedy of commedia dell'arte; and Iago's gleeful, improvised manipulation of the other characters mirrors the improvised performances of commedia dell'arte. Arguably, this reading also offers readers, theater directors and playgoers the promise of a new and deeper appreciation of the play as a bitter satire of human folly that entertains, disorients and unsettles, denying the audience the Aristotelian catharsis of tragedy. Although a few Shakespeare scholars have noted traces of commedia dell'arte in several plays, notably The Tempest, its influence on Othello has been almost completely ignored. It's not discussed in the many scholarly, single-volume editions, including those by E. A. J. Honigmann, Michael Neill, Kim Hall, Russ McDonald and Edward Pechter. Nor is there anything on it in the collected works of Shakespeare, such as the Riverside, Norton, Pelican, Oxford or most recently the RSC edition from Random House. The focus is on other sources and influences, principally Cinthio's

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This paper illustrates how Shakespeare's depictions of political collapse and predatory human actors seem to anticipate the political philosophy of Thomas Hobbes. Focusing on King Lear and Othello, I demonstrate how Shakespeare understands what is 'natural' to human beings to be determined largely by context: it varies wildly depending on the presence or absence of laws or other social constraints. Humans are revealed by Shakespeare - as they are by Hobbes - to possess a frightening kind of ontological flexibility which allows them to be something other than what they are by nature.

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King Lear questions

First of all let’s look at the broad categories questions usually fall into:


You may be asked to discuss the following when it comes to characters:

  • a tragic hero? (does he recognise his flaws and gain self-knowledge?)
  • his nobility (is he a good man? / strengths & weaknesses / virtues & flaws)
  • his relationship with his daughters & treatment of / by them
  • the extent to which he is responsible for the tragedy which occurs
  • our level of sympathy for him


  • his nobility / is he a good man? / strengths and weaknesses / virtues and flaws
  • his relationship with his sons & treatment of / by them
  • his dramatic function in the play

Lear & Gloucester:

  • how and why their stories mirror each other
  • the extent to which they bring about their own downfall
  • our level of sympathy for them
  • too good to be true or a believable character?
  • virtues and flaws / our level of sympathy for her
  • dramatic function in the play?

Goneril and Regan:

  • treatment of their father
  • extent to which they present a very negative view of women
  • an admirable villain? or a sociopath?

Edmund and Edgar:

  • contrast in their characters and personalities

Kent and The Fool

  • dramatic function and believability

All characters:

  • contrast the extremes of good and evil presented in the characters in the play
  • the play is very pessimistic about human nature
  • the play is very pessimistic about human relationships / family / parent – child dynamics

The major themes in the play are:

  • Loyalty & Betrayal

Appearance vs Reality (Deception/Manipulation)

Good and Evil


For each theme – no matter what the wording – ask yourself

WHO does this theme apply to? HOW / WHY does this character have to deal with this issue? Do they CHANGE over the course of the play? Are there any SCENES which highlight this theme specifically? What are our FINAL IMPRESSIONS of this issue?


  • Relevance to a modern audience
  • Pessimistic play?


  • Language & Imagery
  • Dramatic Irony
  • Compelling Drama – scene or scenes


In each case you are given a statement which you can fully agree with, partially agree with or completely disagree with. In the most recent Chief Examiner’s Report, students were advised to avoid taking an overly simplistic approach (“I agree 100% that…”). It’s understandable that this would be your first instinct under exam conditions, but remember that a single sentence rarely sums up accurately the complexity and nuance of an entire play. Yes, you’ll look for evidence that supports the statement, but you’ll also need to display an awareness that different phases in the play contain different truths. Your attitude to a character, theme, relationship in the play will change and morph as the play unfolds and the plot develops…

“ King Lear is a man more sinned against than sinning ” – Discuss

“ Lear is a ‘foolish fond old man’ who deserves everything he gets ” – Discuss

“ Lear embarks on a harrowing journey through suffering to self-knowledge. At the end of the play he is a better and wiser man “

“ The play King Lear is a realistic tragedy that depicts the tragic consequences of one man’s folly “

“ King Lear is not a tragic hero, but rather a victim of circumstances “

“Gloucester is a weak and gullible man, but at heart, a decent one”

“Gloucester serves an important dramatic function in making Lear’s circumstances more credible”

“Discuss the dramatic significance of the Gloucester story in the play King Lear”

Lear and Gloucester

“Neither Lear nor Gloucester are deserving of the love and service they receive from their followers”

“Cordelia shares with her father the faults of pride and obstinacy”

“Cordelia’s dramatic function in the play is twofold: her wisdom highlights her father’s foolishness; her goodness  highlights her sisters’ malevolence” 

Goneril and Regan

“Lear’s evil daughters allow Shakespeare to present a very negative view of women in the play”

“Edmund is a sociopath: a charming liar, incapable of remorse, who views men and women merely as obstacles or aids to his ambition”

“Edmund is an admirable villain. At the beginning of the play he has nothing; by the end he is almost King”

Edmund and Edgar

“Gloucester’s sons represent the very best and the very worst in human nature”

Minor characters: Kent & The Fool

“The Fool serves as Lear’s conscience in the play. When he disappears, it is because Lear no longer needs him”

“The fool is an unnecessary distraction in the play King Lear”

“Kent is too loyal to be believable as a real human being”

General character questions

“The play King Lear offers characters who represent the very best and the very worst in human nature”

“Shakespeare’s King Lear presents a dark and pessimistic view of humanity”

“Cosmic justice is denied, yet human justice prevails in the play King Lear”

“The relationship between parents and children is unrealistically portrayed in the play King Lear”

Loyalty (&/or Betrayal)

“It is only the loyalty of loved ones that enables Lear and Gloucester to endure their sufferings”

“The theme of blindness – both physical and emotional – is dramatically presented in the play King Lear”

“In King Lear, whilst characters are initially fooled by appearances, they gradually come to see the truth”

“In King Lear, ‘sane’ characters frequently behave in a crazy manner, whilst ‘mad’ characters at times seem perfectly sane”

“Love as a redemptive force is a major theme in the play King Lear”

“ The play King Lear memorably explores the meaning of love “

“King Lear examines the nature of good and evil but neither force emerges triumphant”

“Learning through suffering is central to the play”

“ The importance of self-knowledge and forgiveness is strikingly evident in the play King Lear”

“The play King Lear explores what it means to be a good King”


“The play King Lear offers us one central experience: pessimism”

“Shakespeare’s vision of the world is not entirely pessimistic in the play King Lear”

“King Lear is one of the greatest tragedies ever written”

“Scenes of great suffering and of great tenderness help to make King Lear a very memorable play”

“The two plots of King Lear are closely paralleled in theme, character and action, to great dramatic effect”

“What, if any, relevance, does the play King Lear hold for today’s readers?”


“King Lear is a play filled with striking images and symbols which heighten our experience of the play”

“Dramatic irony is used to tragic, and occasionally comic effect, in Shakespeare’s King Lear”

“The way characters speak accurately reflects their personality in Shakespeare’s King Lear”

“ King Lear contains many scenes of compelling drama, but the extremity of the cruelty and violence presented prevents the audience from achieving catharsis. Rather than a release, we feel haunted by what we have witnessed “

8 responses to “ King Lear questions ”

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Half Million Quotes

King Lear Appearance vs Reality Quotes

Sir, I love you more than word can wield the matter, Dearer than eyesight, space, and liberty, Beyond what can be valued, rich or rare, No less than life, with grace, health, beauty, honour; As much as child e’er loved, or father found; A love that makes breath poor, and speech unable. Beyond all manner of so much I love you.

– William Shakespeare

I am made of that self mettle as my sister And prize me at her worth. In my true heart I find she names my very deed of love; Only she comes too short, that I profess Myself an enemy to all other joys Which the most precious square of sense possesses, And find I am alone felicitate In your dear Highness’ love.

LEAR: So young, and so untender? CORDELIA: So young, my lord, and true.

Let it be so. Thy truth, then, be thy dower, For by the sacred radiance of the sun, The mysteries of Hecate and the night, By all the operation of the orbs From whom we do exist, and cease to be, Here I disclaim all my paternal care, Propinquity, and property of blood, And as a stranger to my heart and me Hold thee, from this, for ever. The barbarous Scythian, Or he that makes his generation messes To gorge his appetite, shall to my bosom Be as well neighboured, pitied, and relieved As thou my sometime daughter.

LEAR: Kent, on thy life, no more. KENT: My life I never held but as a pawn To wage against thy enemies; nor fear to lose it, Thy safety being the motive. LEAR: Out of my sight!

The jewels of our father, with wash’d eyes Cordelia leaves you. I know you what you are, And like a sister am most loath to call Your faults as they are named.

Time shall unfold what plighted cunning hides. Who cover faults, at last shame them derides.

Thou, Nature, art my goddess. To thy law My services are bound. Wherefore should I Stand in the plague of custom, and permit The curiosity of nations to deprive me For that I am some twelve or fourteen moonshines Lag of a brother? why "bastard"? Wherefore "base," When my dimensions are as well compact, My mind as generous and my shape as true As honest madam’s issue? Why brand they us With "base," with "baseness," "bastardy," "base," "base," Who, in the lusty stealth of nature, take More composition and fierce quality Than doth within a dull, stale, tired bed Go to th’ creating a whole tribe of fops Got ‘tween asleep and wake? Well then, Legitimate Edgar, I must have your land. Our father’s love is to the bastard Edmund As to th’ legitimate. Fine word, "legitimate." Well, my legitimate, if this letter speed And my invention thrive, Edmund the base Shall top th’ legitimate. I grow, I prosper. Now, gods, stand up for bastards!

Legitimate Edgar, I must have your land. Our father’s love is to the bastard Edmund As to th’ legitimate. Fine word, "legitimate." Well, my legitimate, if this letter speed And my invention thrive, Edmund the base Shall top th’ legitimate. I grow, I prosper.

I beseech you, sir, pardon me. It is a letter from my brother, that I have not all o’er-read; and for so much as I have perused, I find it not fit for your o’er-looking.

GLOUCESTER [Reads]: "This policy and reverence of age makes the world bitter to the best of our times; keeps our fortunes from us till our oldness cannot relish them. I begin to find an idle and fond bondage in the oppression of aged tyranny; who sways, not as it hath power, but as it is suffered. Come to me, that of this I may speak more. If our father would sleep till I waked him, you should enjoy half his revenue for ever, and live the beloved of your brother, Edgar." Hum? Conspiracy? "Sleep till I waked him, you should enjoy half his revenue," – My son Edgar! Had he a hand to write this? a heart and brain to breed it in? – When came this to you? Who brought it?

I have heard him oft maintain it to be fit that, sons at perfect age and fathers declined, the father should be as ward to the son, and the son manage his revenue.

O villain, villain! His very opinion in the letter. Unnatural, detested, brutish villain! Worse than brutish! Go, sirrah, seek him; I’ll apprehend him: abominable villain! Where is he?

He cannot be such a monster.

If but as well I other accents borrow That can my speech diffuse, my good intent May carry through itself to that full issue For which I razed my likeness. Now, banished Kent, If thou canst serve where thou dost stand condemned, So may it come thy master, whom thou lov’st, Shall find thee full of labours.

I do profess to be no less than I seem.

LEAR: What art thou? KENT: A very honest-hearted fellow, and as poor as the King. LEAR: If thou be’st as poor for a subject as he is for a king, thou art poor enough. What wouldst thou? KENT: Service. LEAR: Who wouldst thou serve? KENT: You. LEAR: Dost thou know me, fellow? KENT: No, sir, but you have that in your countenance which I would fain call master.

LEAR: Doth any here know me? This is not Lear. Doth Lear walk thus, speak thus? Where are his eyes? Either his notion weakens, his discernings Are lethargied – Ha! Waking? ‘Tis not so. Who is it that can tell me who I am? FOOL: Lear’s shadow.

This man hath had good counsel. A hundred knights! ‘Tis politic and safe to let him keep At point a hundred knights! Yes, that on every dream, Each buzz, each fancy, each complaint, dislike, He may enguard his dotage with their powers And hold our lives in mercy.

Let him fly far. Not in this land shall he remain uncaught. And found – dispatch.

Thou unpossessing bastard!

And of my land, Loyal and natural boy, I’ll work the means To make thee capable.

My old heart is cracked; it’s cracked.

CORNWALL: Edmund, I hear that you have shown your father A childlike office. EDMUND: It was my dury, sir.

This is some fellow Who, having been praised for bluntness, doth affect A saucy roughness and constrains the garb Quite from his nature. He cannot flatter, he. An honest mind and plain, he must speak truth! An they will take it, so; if not, he’s plain. These kind of knaves I know, which in this plainness Harbour more craft and more corrupter ends Than twenty silly-ducking observants That stretch their duties nicely.

I heard myself proclaimed, And by the happy hollow of a tree Escaped the hunt. No port is free; no place That guard and most unusual vigilance Does not attend my taking. Whiles I may ‘scape, I will preserve myself, and am bethought To take the basest and most poorest shape That ever penury in contempt of man Brought near to beast.

My face I’ll grime with filth, Blanket my loins, elf all my hairs in knots, And with presented nakedness outface The winds and persecutions of the sky. The country gives me proof and precedent Of Bedlam beggars who with roaring voices Strike in their numbed and mortifièd arms Pins, wooden pricks, nails, sprigs of rosemary, And, with this horrible object, from low farms, Poor pelting villages, sheepcotes, and mills, Sometime with lunatic bans, sometime with prayers, Enforce their charity. "Poor Turlygod! Poor Tom!" That’s something yet. "Edgar" I nothing am.

Edgar I nothing am.

There is division, Although as yet the face of it is covered With mutual cunning, ‘twixt Albany and Cornwall, Who have – as who have not, that their great stars Throned and set high? – servants, who seem no less, Which are to France the spies and speculations Intelligent of our state; what hath been seen, Either in snuffs and packings of the dukes, Or the hard rein which both of them have borne Against the old kind king; or something deeper, Whereof perchance these are but furnishings; But true it is, from France there comes a power Into this scattered kingdom, who already, Wise in our negligence, have secret feet In some of our best ports and are at point To show their open banner.

GLOUCESTER: Alack, alack, Edmund, I like not this unnatural dealing. When I desired their leave that I might pity him, they took from me the use of mine own house, charged me on pain of perpetual displeasure neither to speak of him, entreat for him, or any way sustain him. EDMUND: Most savage and unnatural.

king lear theme appearance vs reality

A Thousand Acres

Jane smiley, everything you need for every book you read..

King Lear and Good vs. Evil Theme Icon

A Thousand Acres takes place in the American Midwest in a community so small that, at times, its inhabitants seem to know everything about one another. And yet many of the novel’s characters, including some of the community’s most prominent and popular residents, have dark secrets to hide; for example, Larry Cook abused his children, Ginny and Rose , even as he pretends to be a proud, upstanding member of the community. Smiley’s novel studies the relationship between appearance and reality; particularly the appearance of innocence and goodness as it hides secret sin or evil.

For some of the novel’s characters, the separation between appearances and reality can be a source of freedom. Characters maintain a certain affect or public image, but beneath the surface, their personalities are very different. Appearance acts as a mask for reality, disguising and enabling the characters’ true thoughts and feelings. Consider Harold Clark , Larry’s neighbor and rival. Clark pretends to be an old eccentric, when in reality, he’s extremely sharp and single-minded. Because he’s so successful in affecting the appearance of eccentricity, Harold’s neighbors mostly steer clear of him; they give him a lot of privacy, and even let him get away with overcharging on farm crops. In short, Clark manipulates his public image in order to benefit himself—that is, to benefit his secret, shrewder “self.” Harold’s son, Jess Clark , represents an even more extreme example of the divide between appearance and reality. Jess spends most of his adult life “trying on” different careers and, with each career, a different personality. Whenever Jess tires of the external elements of his life, such as his job, his home, or his friends, he just moves on to somewhere else. Jess can do so because, beneath his kind, charismatic façade, he’s cold-hearted and selfish—Jess is so good at affecting the appearance of kindness that we don’t realize how cruel he really is until the end of the book.

By manipulating their own appearances, affects, and reputations, many of the characters in the novel achieve a kind of freedom. But of course, there’s a limit to how often the characters can get away with such manipulations; furthermore, many characters, particularly female characters, are forced to adhere to a certain public image instead of crafting one for themselves. While Jess Clark has the freedom to start over again and again, Ginny and Rose are “locked into” the same sexist roles year after year. They’re expected to be obedient children, to cook and care for their aging father, and to marry and have kids.

Ginny and Rose struggle to “be themselves” in private while adhering to the image that’s expected of them. Their public image doesn’t offer them freedom; on the contrary, it burdens them, to the point where, on some level, they start to believe that their public image is the truth. Ginny and Rose also have a horrible secret: Larry raped them when they were teenagers. The novel never explicitly explains why the two women never tell other people what happened. Smiley implies, however, that Ginny and Rose remain silent about their father’s horrible crimes at least in part because they’re afraid of disrupting appearances. In other words, they’re afraid of challenging Larry’s image as a pillar of the community, their own images as obedient daughters, and even their community’s “image” as a tranquil, ordinary place. In short, Smiley shows a basic disagreement between her characters’ appearances and their true natures. While some of the characters succeed in manipulating their own appearances, many of the women in the novel suffer because they internalize the image that other characters have imposed upon them.

Appearance vs. Reality ThemeTracker

A Thousand Acres PDF

Appearance vs. Reality Quotes in A Thousand Acres

At the pig roast, Jess Clark and the new machinery were Harold’s twin exhibits, and guests from all over the area couldn’t resist, had no reason to resist, the way he ferried them between the two, asking for and receiving admiration with a kind of shameless innocence that he was known for.

king lear theme appearance vs reality

What is a farmer? A farmer is a man who feeds the world.

Women, Sexual Abuse, and Fertility Theme Icon

It was a pantry cabinet, a sink, four base cabinets, and two wall cabinets, as well as eight fee of baby blue laminated countertop, … which my father had bought for a thousand dollars.

“He is crazy,” said Rose. Anyway, Ginny, you’re running out of money

and you have all the expensive rentals left before you get to Go.”

King Lear and Good vs. Evil Theme Icon

Now that I remembered that little girl and that young, running man, I couldn’t imagine what had happened to them.

“Now that I’m back, after all those years away, I’m really amazed at how good Harold is at manipulating the way people think of him.”

After you’ve confided long enough in someone, he or she assumes the antagonism you might have just been trying out. It was better for now to keep this conversation to myself.

Revenge Theme Icon

I was so remarkably comfortable with the discipline of making a good appearance!

One of the jars of sausage was close to the edge of the table. I pushed it back and looked at Jess again. For the first time in weeks what was unbearable felt bearable.

I continued to behave as if I was living in the sight of all our neighbors, as Mr. Cartier had told us to. I waited for Rose to die, but the weather was warm for sauerkraut and liver sausage—that was a winter dish.

One thing was surely true about going to court. It had marvelous divided us from each other and from our old lives. There could be no reconciliation now.

The logo.


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    Appearance versus Reality is by all means a considerable theme in King Lear and is not only shown through the characters Regan, Goneril, and Edmund, but is also shown through Kent, Edgar and King Lear himself. Shakespeare shows us that not everything is as it appears to be. Reg. Out, treacherous villain!

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  18. Blindness and Insight Theme in King Lear

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  19. Love and Appearance Versus Reality in Shakespeare'S Othello and King Lear

    William Shakespeare's plays, especially Othello and King Lear, are the best examples how people can hide the reality and confuse others with their appearance. Love plays a huge role in those conclusions since people mostly make mistakes when they love or believe someone the most. This research deals with the theme of love and appearance ...

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    Conclusion. In Shakepeare's King Lear, Shakespeare uses Appearance to Appearance to augment reality. Like when Edgar disguised himself as Poor Tom to avoid his troubles and when Kent disguised himself just to stay loyal to King Lear. Appearance is just an image that is deceived by the eyes, and reality is the truth hidden behind the darkness.

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    King Lear - Appearance Vs. Reality Quotes. Act 1 Scene 1 Kent is banished for his insight into G + R's true motives. Click the card to flip 👆. KENT: Why fare thee well, king, since thus thou wilt appear, Freedom lives hence banishment is here. Click the card to flip 👆. 1 / 8.

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