“A man more sinn’d against than sinning” Evaluate Lear’s claim.
It is certainly true that ‘King Lear’ has the themes of sinning, justice and cruelty and this essay will explore how characters in the play demonstrate these themes through their language and actions. Also, this essay will evaluate whether Lear is in fact innocent or if he instigated his own downfall through his actions in Act I and Act II.
Lear could be described as a victim of circumstance; he is old, dying and losing his sanity and sense of identity; as Regan claims in Act II Scene IV, “you are old; Nature in you stands on the very verge Of her confine”. Perhaps this is why he decides to divide his kingdom between his daughters so that he may “unburthened crawl toward death” and also “that future strife may be prevented now”. This is an example of prophetic irony, as Lear hopes his actions will prevent future arguments, the division sets forth a series of events that do not fall in Lear’s favour. However, this act of dividing his kingdom may have been born of innocent intent but to a Jacobean audience, it wold have been seen as the ultimate sin. As a king, Lear was defined by his status, yet he divided up his kingdom and alienated himself from his royal dignity and authority. In the Jacobean ear, it was believed that kings were given the Divine Right’s to the kingdom by God; so to divide up the divine kingdom would have been utter blasphemy and insult to God. This could be argued as Lear’s first act that leads towards his downfall, in the pagan era that ‘King Lear’ is set in, Lear has just turned his back on his Divine Rights and therefore insulted the Gods.
Lear’s next sin unfolds in the same scene. After Lear’s declaration about the ensuing division of his kingdom, he conducts a love trial for his three daughters, Goneril, Regan and Cordelia. Another belief in Jacobean times was that there was a sacred, natural bond between parent and child. Even though the audience soon discover...