• Submitted By: 0hMyL0rd
  • Date Submitted: 10/25/2016 6:32 AM
  • Category: English
  • Words: 386
  • Page: 2

We often hear characters hopefully appealing for God’s/the Gods’ protection & support but this is juxtaposed with the defeat of these hopes & bleakly negative outcomes. For example, in the final scene, Albany cries out “the Gods defend her” – then Lear comes in with the dead Cordelia in his arms i.e. the Gods fail to answer their pleas/prayers. So this is an essentially pessimistic outlook alright.

Gloucester has no such faith in divine intervention to protect the virtuous, instead evoking cruel Gods who delight in human suffering and reward people who are corrupt. He bleakly observes: “As flies to wanton boys are we to the Gods, they kill us for their sport”. He feels there is no divine justice, but at this point it is no wonder that he gives way to despair – he’s had his eyes plucked out and is suffering the loss of his beloved child Edgar. Interestingly, by the end of the play, he has changed his view and prays to the ever gentle Gods… so the person who had the least faith at the beginning of the play has the most at the end. Confusing.com

Other characters, such as Edgar, believe that the Gods reward good and punish evil: “the Gods are just, and of our pleasant vices make instruments to plague us” “think that the clearest Gods … have preserved thee”

Suffering in the play:

Another way to think about the level of pessimism Shakespeare’s play exhibits is to consider the extent and extremity of the suffering and pain the characters endure (lots of pain; lots of suffering!) and to ask whether or not this suffering is completely out of proportion to their flaws and failings (abso-bloody-loutely-yes!). Life is so awful for Lear that Kent sees death as a blessed release for him: “He hates him, that would upon the rack of this tough world stretch him out longer”

However, it’s important to remember that whilst their suffering is extreme, Shakespeare frequently and repeatedly points to the redemptive effects that stem from these experiences of suffering –...