A thematic overview of Shakespeare's King Lear.
Mind Map by Sarah-Elizabeth , updated more than 1 year ago
Created by Sarah-Elizabeth over 10 years ago

Resource summary

    1. Blindness
      1. Gloucester's blindness symbolises both his physical and Lear's internal blindness.
        1. Both Lear and Gloucester have loyal children and disloyal children. Both are blinded to the truth, and both end up banishing the loyal children and making the wicked one(s) their heir(s).
          1. Gloucester loses his eyes and Lear goes mad in when they realise their blindness.
            1. "O my follies! Then Edgar was abused. Kind Gods forgive me that, and prosper him." (Gloucester)
              1. There is no future for Gloucester, so there is no need for eyes to see his way. When he was able to see he made wrong judgements because of lack of insight. If he could but live to recognise his son (as he really is, a loving son), then he would say that he was discerning (had insight.)
                1. "I have no way, and therefore I want no eyes' I stumbled when I saw. Full oft 'tis seems.. might my touch I'd say I had eyes again." (Gloucester)
            2. The Storm
              1. Storm echoes Lear's inner turmoil and mounting madness: it is a physical, turbulent natural reflection of Lear's internal confusion.
                1. The storm embodies the awesome power of nature, which forces the powerless king to recognise his own mortality and human frailty and to cultivate a sense of humility for the first time.
                  1. Storm symbolises divine justice, nature itself is angry about the events in the play.
                    1. The meteorological chaos reflects the political disaray that has engulfed Lear's Britain.
                  2. MOTIFS
                    1. Madness
                      1. Fool seems to be mad through his babble, yet he offers good counsel.
                        1. The madness in Lear's mind mirrors the turmoil and chaos that has descended on his kingdom. (Real)
                          1. Provides him with wisdom by reducing him to his bare humanity. Thus Lear learns humility.
                          2. Edgar's feigned madness as a disguise. Still wise.
                            1. Hardens and prepares him to defeat Edmund at the close of the play.
                              1. "O, matter and impertanency mix'd! Reason in madness!" (Edgar)
                            2. Royalty/Kingship
                              1. Stripped of the authority of kingship (made obvious by Goneril's complaint about the knights), Lear is a man without identity.
                                1. Lear: "Does any here know me? This is not Lear..Where are his eyes?.. Who is it that can tell me who I am?" Fool: "Lear's shadow."
                                2. Contrast between king Lear and the King of France.
                                  1. KING OF FRANCE: Conducts himself with acceptance, reason and conscience. Act within the boundaries of natural law, with generosity of spirit and willingness to share his life and country.
                                    1. KING LEAR: Absolute ruler, evoking grandeur and authority, representing God and the reigning patriachy of kingship until the love test. Then he refuses questioning or wisdom of his lords. Shows vanity, and is a foolish, egotistical old man.
                                      1. Previous greatness shown through Cordelia's , but largely Kent's devotion.
                                  2. Betrayal
                                    1. Children betray fathers (Both main plot and subplot)
                                      1. Goneril and Regan betray Lear and then are raised into the highest power in England.
                                        1. Edmund betrays Gloucester to gain his title and power.
                                          1. "Our flesh and blood, my lord, is grown so vile, that it doth hate what gets it." (Gloucester to Lear about both their children.)
                                          2. Lear feels as though Cordelia betrayed him.
                                            1. "I loved her most and thought to set my rest upon her kind nursery. Hence and avoid my sight!" (Lear about Cordelia)
                                          3. Brothers betray brothers (also sisters betray sisters)
                                            1. Edmund betrays Edgar to gain his Fathers trust
                                              1. Goneril and Regan turn on each other after they have gained power as the both lust after Edmund.
                                              2. At the heart of every betrayal lies a skewed set of values.
                                            2. THEMES
                                              1. Family Relationships
                                                1. Parent/Child Relationship
                                                  1. Favouritism- Lear favours Cordelia over his other daughters. Gloucester claims to favour his sons equally yet society favours the legitimate.
                                                    1. Ingratitude
                                                      1. To take 't again perforce! Monster Ingratitude!"
                                                      2. Role reversals
                                                        1. Cordelia cares for Lear.
                                                          1. Edgar cares for Gloucester.
                                                            1. Goneril and Regan reject their father and take advantage of the power given to them and of his age and vulnerability.
                                                              1. Fool: "May an ass know when a cart draws the horse. Lear: I should be false persuaded I had daughters which they will make an obedient father."
                                                                1. The fool recognises that Goneril and Regan will attempt to control their father with their new power.
                                                                2. "Fool: Since thou mads't thy daughters thy mothers."
                                                          2. Justice
                                                            1. "As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods;/ they kill us for their sport." (Gloucester)
                                                              1. "The gods are just." (Edgar)
                                                                1. Although the wicked die (just) the good die along with them (unjust).
                                                                  1. "Why should a dog, a horse, a rat have life and thou no breath at all?" (Lear to dead Cordelia)
                                                                  2. There is goodness in the world of the play but the is also madness and death, and it is difficult to tell which triumphs in the end.
                                                                    1. DIVINE JUSTICE: The battle of divine justice can be seen in Edgar and Edmund's battle as it really is a conflict that relays the ongoing battle between good and evil, with Edgar defeat of Edmund obviously signaling the triumph of righteousness over corruption.
                                                                    2. Authority vs Chaos
                                                                      1. Lear is father and king, and when he gives away his AUTHORITY to the unworthy and evil Goneril and Regan, he delivers not only himself and his family but all of Britain into chaos and cruelty.
                                                                        1. The stable, hierachal order that Lear initially stood for falls apart and disorder engulfs the realm.
                                                                          1. In the Storm Lear comes to realise that he like the rest of the humankind is insignificant in the world as he witnesses the powerful forces of the natural world.
                                                                          2. Reconciliation
                                                                            1. Rather than despise Lear for banishing her Cordelia remains devoted, even from afar, and eventually comes to Lear's rescue. It is the same with Edgar and his father Gloucester.
                                                                              1. Lear's recognition of the error of his ways in Act 5 is a vital ingredient to his reconciliation with Cordelia, not because Cordelia feels wronged by him but because he has understood the sincerity and depth of her love for him.
                                                                                1. FORGIVENESS- "When thou dost ask me blessing, I'll kneel down, and ask thee forgiveness: so we'll live." (Lear to Cordelia)
                                                                                  1. "Pray you now, forget and forgive: I am old and foolish." (Lear)
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