Essay on King Lear

The Use of Foil Characters in King Lear

“King Lear” was written between 1605-6 and reflects philosophical trends and world views as the social and political foundation the society. This play unveils values and traditions of the Middle Ages, and appeals to readers through its vividness and topicality of themes portrayed in the play.

Thesis Shakespeare uses foil characters in opposition to the main heroes in order to compare and contrast personal qualities, goodness and sins, values and traditions of the society.

Help With Essay on King Lear
Help With Essay on King Lear

Earl of Gloucester is a foil of King Lear who commits the same faults as Lear. For while deploying descriptive detail in the conventional realistic way to build up a rich and convincing impression of Earl of Gloucester and the world he creates, Shakespeare uses realism. In contrast to King Lear, Gloucester is not so powerful and stubborn. For instance Gloucester says: “I desir’d their leave that I might pity him, they took from / me the use of mine own house, charg’d me on pain of perpetual/ displeasure neither to speak of him, entreat for him, nor sny / way sustain him” (Shakespeare). Shakespeare compares and contrasts both rulers who suffer the burdens of rule.

Through the foil characters Shakespeare ‘teaches’ the audience about good and bad, virtues and sins, social and immoral behavior. For instance, actions of Duke of Cornwall and Regan depict low morals of people who act in their own interests only forgetting about human virtues and goodness. Regan sarcastically comments: “Which the most precious square of sense possesses, / And find I am alone felicitate / In your dear Highness’ love” (Shakespeare). Using these characters, Shakespeare unveils consequences of selfishness and egoism, aggressiveness and low persona, values of people.

In opposition to Regan and Goneril, Shakespeare creates a character of Cordelia a loving and sympathetic daughter. The nonsensical action caused sufferings for many innocent people because of dishonor, falsehood, low moral values ‘preached’ by the society. In contras to her sisters Cordelia truly loves her father and cares about him: “O dear father, / It is thy business that I go about” (Shakespeare). Without this opposition, the audience would not be able to see the differences and contrasts which play the main role in the play.

In sum, using foil characters, Shakespeare describes the problems of individual choice and the choice of the society embodied in its traditions and prejudices. The play is based on contrasts and oppositions which help to create a story conflict and draw attention to contrasting elements and personal traits.

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