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What A. C.

Bradley suggests about the characters in King Lear


Lear In other tragedies like Macbeth and Hamlet we know and understand the role of the hero in their own demise. In King Lear this is not clear. By the end we see him "as a man more sinned against than sinning, but almost wholly as a suffererour indignation against those who inflicted them has been so intense, that recollection of the wrong he did to Cordelia, to Kenthas been effaced."

His heroic efforts to be patient, the depth of his shame and repentance, and the ecstasy of his reunion with Cordelia, have melted our very hearts."

Gloucester The parallels between Lear are so marked that it cannot possibly be accidental

His sufferings purify him, he dies a better and wiser man than he showed himself at first. At the end they are both asked for the blessing of their good child, they even die in a similar manner

However, Gloucester has infinitely less force and firea decidedly weak though good hearted man; and, failing wholly to support Kent in resisting Lears original folly and injustice, he only gradually takes the better part. Nor is his character very interesting or very distincthis characteristics barely seem to compose an individual, a person. This is curious considering how much we see of him in the play.

Albany Albany is merely sketched. He also ends up wiser than he started.

He is inferior at originally opposing Goneril. He is weaker in battle than Edmund who really wins the war. He would have fallen to the plot against him.

Cornwall He shows, I believe, no redeeming traits, he is essentially a coward

Edmund He has a lighter and more superficial naturea genuine gaiety in him which makes one smile, not unsympathetically as one listens to his first soliloquy with its cherry ending he is determined to make his way, first to his brothers lands, then-as the prospect widens-to the crown; and he regards men and women, with their virtues and vices, together with the bonds of kinship, friendship, or allegiance, merely as hindrances or helps to his end.

They are divested of all quality except their relation to this end; as indifferent as mathematical quantities or mere physical agents. Edmunds illegitimacy is no excuse for his villainy, but it somewhat influences our feelings. He has no recognized place within the social order so devotes himself to nature.

Goneril The elder and the more terribleEdmund judged right when caring for neither sister but aiming for the crown, he preferred Goneril, for he could trust her to remove the living impediments to her desires.

She is the most hideous human being (if indeed she is one) that Shakespeare ever drew.

Kent Kent is one of the best loved characters in Shakespeare. We are grateful to him because he stands up for Cordelia, and because when she is out of sight, he constantly keeps her in our minds

His love for Lear is the passion of his life: it is his life

At the beginning he braves Lears wrath even more for Lears sake than Cordelias.

At the end he seems to realize Cordelias death only as it is reflected in Lears agony.

The King is not to him old, wayward, unreasonable, piteous: he is still grand, the king of men. Through his eyes we see the Lear of Lears prime.

Cordelia Cordeliaspeaks scarcely more that 100 lines; yet no character in Shakespeare is more individual, or stamped on the memory of his readers. She is so deeply wronged, and she appears, for all her strength, so defenceless. We think of her as quite young, as slight and small.

Of all of Shakespeares heroines she knew the least of joy. We have to thank the poet for passing lightly over the circumstances of her death. Her image comes before us calm and bright and still.

Edgar His behaviour in the first part of the play is so foolishbut he learns by experience and becomes the most capable person in the story.

He interprets everything religiously.

He never thinks despairingly; in the worst circumstances he is sure there is something to be done to make things better.

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