Shakespearean Double Plot in “King Lear”

Introduction

Shakespeare’s use of two plots in a single play is an important literal structure that appears in several of his works. However, his play ‘King Lear’ is the most important work that provides evidence of this literal structure. Arguably, despite criticisms that Shakespeare confused his audience with more than one plot in the same storyline, it is evident that he evokes a clear connection or link between the story of the relationship between Edgar and Gloucester and the story of Lear and Cordelia (Elton 267).

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Shakespeare’s Plays

In this play, Shakespeare introduces the audience to the two similar stories of two kings, Lear and Gloucester, who disown their loyal offspring due to the manipulation by their evil children (Halio 27). Both fathers are under the control of their treacherous and ambitious sons, who attempt to use their parents’ fallibilities to make material gains. Using similarities in character, themes, and literal language, Shakespeare makes the two storylines complement each other, thus avoiding confusion (Elton 267). First, Shakespeare introduces the blinding of King Lear, which is reflected as a physical equivalent to the physical blindness affecting Gloucester. While King Lear is used to presenting the higher level of human nature, Gloucester is a direct representative of the lower nature of humanity that is quite far from divine. Gloucester committed a physical sin that led to his punishment through physical blinding. Although King Lear did not commit a physical sin, he made an intellectual mistake that caused a loss of sanity. Nevertheless, the two aspects reflected each other as double plots (Elton 269).

The duality of human nature is reflected using the double plot structure in the play. At the start of the play, Albany and Cornwall obtain an equal share of their father’s kingdom. On the other hand, Edmund and Edgar have an equal share of their father’s love and wealth. Although Gloucester’s physical blindness through torture begins later than Lear’s mental suffering, it causes an increase in the latter’s problem. Gloucester’s suicide and eventual restoration are two important events that prepare the audience for Lear’s death and rebirth (Halio 28). Although both men committed critical but different errors in their lives, it is worth noting that lack of consideration is a common factor that caused the problems in the two cases. For instance, Lear failed to make consideration when imposing his will, which eventually led to his suffering. On the other hand, Gloucester failed to make consideration when accepting the will of others, which caused his physical suffering.

Shakespearean Double Plot in “King Lear”

The process of learning wisdom is relatively similar in the two cases. In fact, suffering is involved in order to enlighten the two characters. Gloucester suffers physical suffering, which makes him learn. Similarly, Lear suffers a mental problem that eventually instills knowledge in him. Finally, the two characters achieve spiritual salvation after learning their mistakes through suffering. It is also worth noting that the kind of wisdom archived by the two men is similar (Cameron 94). Lear and Gloucester eventually realize the problems facing the downtrodden. They sympathize with their situation after realizing that they are also as humans as the nobles. Gloucester’s words are similar to Lear’s cry. Gloucester says, “…Let the superfluous and well-fed person… your ordinance and slaves cannot see because they do not feel or feed your power…” Similarly, King Lear says, “…expose yourself and feel what the poor people feel…” In this case, the words “superfluous” and “superflux” are used to mean the wealthy or nobles (Cameron 94).

In this analysis, it is evident that Shakespeare has used two storylines to develop the same meaning. Gloucester’s story reflects the story of Lear. Although it is expected that the use of double lines would confuse the audience, Shakespeare successfully evokes a clear connection or link between the two stories because the structuring and events within are similar. Shakespeare’s use of two plots in a single play is an important literal structure that appears in several of his works. However, his play ‘King Lear’ is the most important work that provides evidence of this literal structure. Arguably, despite criticisms that Shakespeare confused his audience with more than one plot in the same storyline, it is evident that he evokes a clear connection or link between the story of the relationship between Edgar and Gloucester and the story of Lear and Cordelia (Elton 267).

In this play, Shakespeare introduces the audience to the two similar stories of two kings, Lear and Gloucester, who disown their loyal offspring due to the manipulation by their evil children (Halio 27). Both fathers are under the control of their treacherous and ambitious sons, who attempt to use their parents’ fallibilities to make material gains. Using similarities in character, themes, and literal language, Shakespeare makes the two storylines complement each other, thus avoiding confusion (Elton 267). First, Shakespeare introduces the blinding of King Lear, which is reflected as a physical equivalent to the physical blindness affecting Gloucester. While King Lear is used to presenting the higher level of human nature, Gloucester is a direct representative of the lower nature of humanity that is quite far from divine. Gloucester committed a physical sin that led to his punishment through physical blinding. Although King Lear did not commit a physical sin, he made an intellectual mistake that caused a loss of sanity. Nevertheless, the two aspects reflected each other as double plots (Elton 269).

The duality of human nature is reflected using the double plot structure in the play. At the start of the play, Albany and Cornwall obtain an equal share of their father’s kingdom. On the other hand, Edmund and Edgar have an equal share of their father’s love and wealth. Although Gloucester’s physical blindness through torture begins later than Lear’s mental suffering, it causes an increase in the latter’s problem. Gloucester’s suicide and eventual restoration are two important events that prepare the audience for Lear’s death and rebirth (Halio 28). Although both men committed critical but different errors in their lives, it is worth noting that lack of consideration is a common factor that caused the problems in the two cases. For instance, Lear failed to make consideration when imposing his will, which eventually led to his suffering. On the other hand, Gloucester failed to make consideration when accepting the will of others, which caused his physical suffering.

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Conclusion

The process of learning wisdom is relatively similar in the two cases. In fact, suffering is involved in order to enlighten the two characters. Gloucester suffers physical suffering, which makes him learn. Similarly, Lear suffers a mental problem that eventually instills knowledge in him. Finally, the two characters achieve spiritual salvation after learning their mistakes through suffering. It is also worth noting that the kind of wisdom archived by the two men is similar (Cameron 94). Lear and Gloucester eventually realize the problems facing the downtrodden. They sympathize with their situation after realizing that they are also as humans as the nobles. Gloucester’s words are similar to Lear’s cry. Gloucester says, “…Let the superfluous and well-fed person… your ordinance and slaves cannot see because they do not feel or feed your power…” Similarly, King Lear says, “…expose yourself and feel what the poor people feel…” In this case, the words “superfluous” and “superflux” are used to mean the wealthy or nobles (Cameron 94).

In this analysis, it is evident that Shakespeare has used two storylines to develop the same meaning. Gloucester’s story reflects the story of Lear. Although it is expected that the use of double lines would confuse the audience, Shakespeare successfully evokes a clear connection or link between the two stories because the structuring and events within are similar.

Works Cited

Cameron, Lloyd. King Lear, by William Shakespeare. Washington, DC: Pascal Press, 2010. Print.

Elton, William. King Lear and the Gods. Kentucky: University of Kentucky Press, 2012.print.

Halio, Jay. King Lear: A Guide to the Play. New York: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2011. Print.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, May 25). Shakespearean Double Plot in "King Lear". Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/shakespearean-double-plot-in-king-lear/

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"Shakespearean Double Plot in "King Lear"." StudyCorgi, 25 May 2021, studycorgi.com/shakespearean-double-plot-in-king-lear/.

1. StudyCorgi. "Shakespearean Double Plot in "King Lear"." May 25, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/shakespearean-double-plot-in-king-lear/.


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StudyCorgi. "Shakespearean Double Plot in "King Lear"." May 25, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/shakespearean-double-plot-in-king-lear/.

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StudyCorgi. 2021. "Shakespearean Double Plot in "King Lear"." May 25, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/shakespearean-double-plot-in-king-lear/.

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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Shakespearean Double Plot in "King Lear"'. 25 May.

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