"Shakespeare's vision in 'King Lear' is not entirely pessimistic". To what extent do you agree with this judgement?
There are strong arguments for 'King Lear' being both a pessimistic platy and an optimistic play. Whether the play is optimistic or pessimistic is of great importance to the meaning of the play as a whole, as the message it conveys hinges on whether the play is hopeful or disparagingly tragic. It could be argued that Shakespeare is trying to convey life as being utterly pointless; that we are simply at the mercy of the evil powers which inhibit the earth. Alternatively, it can be agreed with the statement above, that Shakespeare is demonstrating that there is a point to life; that we must learn, love, and try to live honourably and decently.
The origins of Shakespeare's 'King Lear' came from a variety of sources and, in particular, an old Pagan folktale, of another King Lear of Britain. It reveals that Shakespeare purposely turned these sources which offer a happy ending where Cordelia and Lear are left alive and together at the end and where everything is resolved, leaving the audience with a sense of relief and justice, into a bleak and sinister play where many of the virtuous die, including Cordelia and Lear, or are left in despair like Kent. Shakespeare’s change of ending appears to hint at a message of pessimism, darkness and no hope. Some people believe that it was Shakespeare’s intention to create a hopeless and pessimistic ending and leave the audience overwhelmed with tragedy. Indeed, W.R. Elton supports this final interpretation: ‘No redemption stirs at this world’s end; only suffering, tears, pity and loss and illusion.’
Shakespeare carefully structures the play to build a mood of pessimism as the play unravels towards its climax. Kent’s character plays a vital role in helping create this final bleak mood. Throughout the play Kent has been a positive, hopeful character devoted to his King: ‘let me still remain the true blank of...