King Lear

King Lear KING LEAR: THE PLOT There are really two plots in King Lear, a main plot and a fully developed subplot. Each has its own set of characters. In the main plot, there is the head of the family, the 80-plus-year-old king of Britain, Lear. He has three daughters, Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia. The Duke of Albany is married to the oldest, Goneril, and the Duke of Cornwall is married to Regan, the middle daughter.

Cordelia has two suitors, the Duke of Burgundy and the King of France. The court jester, the Fool, is by extension a member of the Lear family and part of the main plot, as is the Earl of Kent, Lear’s loyal follower. The Earl of Gloucester, also a member of Lear’s court, is the head of another family and the focus of the subplot. He has two offspring, an older, legitimate son named Edgar and a younger, illegitimate or bastard son named Edmund. Various minor characters appear from time to time.

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They are easily identified by their connections with whatever main character they serve or speak of. As the play opens, Lear has decided to retire and divide his kingdom among his three daughters. Cordelia’s husband will be chosen for her immediately after Lear executes this living will. Before he allots the shares, Lear asks each daughter to make a profession of her love for him in order to receive her entitlement. Goneril and Regan waste no time professing love for their father, but Cordelia is speechless. She loves her father as any daughter should, no more and no less.

Lear is outraged by what he sees as her lack of devotion. He cuts Cordelia out of her share and banishes her. Her share is divided between Goneril and Regan. Lear gives them everything but keeps a retinue, a following of 100 knights who will accompany him as he alternates monthly visits between his two daughters. Cordelia’s suitors are called in. Without a dowry, Burgundy rejects her; but the King of France sees her true worth and leads Cordelia off to marriage and his protection.

At Gloucester’s castle, Edmund reveals that he will not let his illegitimate birth and older brother prevent him from inheriting his father’s estate. He devises a plan to convince Gloucester that Edgar is secretly planning to kill his father to get his hands on the family property and enjoy it while he’s still young. Edmund then tells Edgar that their father is after him for some mistaken notion of a reported crime. Eventually Gloucester is convinced of Edgar’s treachery and seeks to put his older son to death. Edgar flees for his life.

Meanwhile, Lear discovers that living with his two daughters is no joy. He is so outraged by their cruel behavior toward him that he curses them and rushes out into a violent storm. During his exposure to the elements he is accompanied by Kent, the Fool (his court jester), and eventually by Edgar, who has disguised himself as a lunatic beggar named poor Tom. Gloucester tries to help Lear and his followers but is betrayed to Cornwall and Regan by Edmund. As punishment, Gloucester is blinded and sent out into the storm, too.

Edgar, still disguised, discovers his blind father and leads him to Dover, where he joins Lear, who has gone mad from exposure to the elements and the anguish he has suffered at the hands of his daughters. The news of Lear’s treatment had reached Cordelia, and the King of France has sent an invading force to England to help restore Lear’s rights to him. In Dover, where they have landed, Cordelia finds Lear and helps to restore his sanity by loving care. While preparing to fight the French invaders, Goneril and Regan have developed a passion for Edmund. But before they can do anything about it, the battle is fought. The French lose, and Lear and Cordelia are taken prisoners.

Edmund sends Lear and Cordelia to prison with orders for them to be secretly killed. When Albany enters, he accuses Edmund of treason for plotting with Goneril against him and the interests of the state. Edmund is given the chance to defend his honor in a duel. Edgar appears in a new disguise to take up this challenge and mortally wounds Edmund. Goneril sees the handwriting on the wall and flees from the scene.

Edmund confesses all his crimes as a servant enters and announces that Goneril has poisoned Regan and killed herself. Edmund then reveals that he has ordered Lear’s and Cordelia’s deaths. Albany sends soldiers to prevent it, but he’s too late. Lear enters carrying the dead Cordelia in his arms. As he weeps for her, surrounded by the bodies of Goneril and Regan, the survivors can only stare in respectful awe. Albany, the victor of the battle, relinquishes rule of the country to Kent and Edgar, but the worn-out Kent doesn’t accept.

Edgar is left to restore order in England as the bodies of the dead are carried away. Book Reports.

King Lear

King Lear & A Thousand Acres:
The Storms That Loom Within Our Lives
World Literature
English 206
May 2, 2004
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Thesis Statement:
The similarities that have been revealed in King Lear and A Thousand Acres are havoc, turmoil and dysfunction that so many families have been plagued with for centuries.

There have been many movies made in the last century that have remarkable similarities to movies and plays made decades ago. This is true with the movie A Thousand Acres. A Thousand Acres is a modern day adaptation of William Shakespeare’s play King Lear. Originally, A Thousand Acres was released as a novel written by Jane Smiley; a Pulitzer Prize winning author. Later the novel was written into a movie by Laura Jones. The similarities and differences in both of these works are ironically unique; they both portray the havoc, the turmoil and the dysfunction that so many families have been plagued with for centuries. The perplexity and bewilderment that was revealed in King Lear has also been revived in the Cook family in A Thousand Acres. The tempestuous situation between a parent and a child is different then the turbulent situations between sisters. The turbulence between the immediate family members in both of the works is parallel. For example, the dictionary gives several definitions for a storm. The definitions that apply are, a storm is “(1) any strong disturbance, (2) strong attack, (3) rage, and (4) a rush or attack violently” (Webster’s 277). Metaphorically speaking, it is as if there are storms fermenting with the daughters and the fathers of these families. Although, some of the characters in the movie
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are different from the way Shakespeare portrayed his characters in King Lear centuries ago, the reader still receives the same message from the story line.
In comparison to A Thousand Acres, Shakespeare’s characters are often noticeably good or evil (Levin). To clarify this point, the King in the play is measured as royalty. The movie portrays the father Larry, admired by many, and the town’s people see him as a Saint, also a form of royalty (Smiley). Although the movie depicts a certain good quality in Larry, in relation to his friends, two of his daughters know differently. In the movie A Thousand Acres Larry has three daughters Ginny, Rose and Caroline. The two oldest daughters do not view him the same way his youngest daughter does. It is quite obvious through the writers’ point of view that he favors the youngest, Caroline. Larry decides to relinquish his estate to his daughters, only to realize he has made a serious miscalculation in judgment. Caroline showed great uncertainty about accepting Larry’s offer; only to be disowned because of her hesitation towards her father’s proposal. In the same way, the King in the play also had three daughters, and he favored his youngest daughter, Cordelia. “Lear does not run mad till the third act, yet his behavior towards his beloved Cordelia in the first scene has all the appearance of a judgment totally depraved. What less then phrenzy can inspire a rage so groundless and a conduct so absurd” (Lennox). This was the start of the storm that was to brew between the family members.
In the meantime, Jane Smiley tells the reader that Caroline understood her father unlike her sisters, Ginny and Rose. She felt that dividing the farm was not a good move emotionally because farming was Larry’s life and what else would he do with himself (Smiley). She tried relentlessly to convince
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her sisters of his mistake, but to no avail. They had their own agenda. The rage and contempt was beginning to transform between Caroline and her sisters.
Similarly, in Shakespeare’s play he writes about the “Fool”. Consequently, later in the play we find out through assumption that the “Fool” is Cordelia. She is the only daughter whom has been brutally honest with the King and cares about his interest. Shakespeare writes, ” Blow, winds and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!”(ACT III Scene 2). He uses images and descriptions to emphasize the turbulence in the King’s life. Later in the play, through other circumstances the King realizes in the midst of his madness, he has made an error in judgment to trust Regan and Goneril, and to disown Cordelia. “Let not women’s weapons, water-drops, Stain my man’s cheeks! (ACT II Scene 4). In King Lear Shakespeare tells us, the daughters relinquished the King out into a stormy night. The turmoil that Shakespeare writes about becomes apparent through Jane smiley’s version on the screen.
However, in the movie A Thousand Acres, Ginny and Rose tried to bring Larry in out of the storm and help him. The imagery that was used to portray the storm scene gives the viewer the sense that the storm was not just literally outside, but also within Larry’s mind. He had realized his loss of control that he once held over his daughters and now they had control over him. Unlike the play, the daughters were keeping a deep dark family secret about incest. In short, this was their way of having control over the man that had control over them for so long. A literary scholar stated, “Where Lear alone to suffer from his daughters, the impression would be limited to the powerful compassion felt by us for his private misfortune” (Schlegel, Augustus).The daughters had stripped Larry of his pride and joy, his passion and also, his land.

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For this reason, the rage and contempt that Rose felt for her father was becoming agonizing for her deal with. Rose tells Ginny, “He deserves to burn in hell for what he has put us through all these years, and we deserve this land we have earned it”(A Thousand Acres). The writers’ portrayal of Rose gives the viewer the sense of her own torment. She was an uncontrollable storm inside filled with hatred for her father. All of the daughters have their own similes that are interconnected to the reader and the viewer. Caroline, the youngest of the three can be described as the calm before the storm. She has no idea of what has taken place in the past, and doesn’t really want to go back to find out. All she can perceive is the calmness and serenity of childhood. Ginny, the oldest can be best described as the calm after the storm, waiting inadvertently and naively of what may happen next, she comes to remember the way it was before the storm started. Finally Rose, the middle daughter can be best described as the raging storm in motion. She is always on the look out to see when she can strike again. Like wise, Rose was parallel to the King’s daughter, Regan in the play (ACT II).
In conclusion, the stormy situations that took place in the lives of Larry Cook’s daughters were going to plague them until they died. The turbulence that they endured stuck with them through the other relationships they had in life. Unfortunately, Rose was unable to get past the damage that Larry had caused for her and her sisters since childhood. Thus, Rose won the battle over the land she went to her death bed not only fighting the cancer that eventually took her life but, fighting to make sure Caroline knew the truth about their father. Caroline moved on with her life and cared for Larry until the day he died, not ever knowing the truth about him. This was due in part to Ginny, who felt it was time to stop looking back and move forward to the future. She
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wanted to pass the hope on to her nieces, the hope that she and Rose never had when they were growing up. Equally in King Lear, It also had a tragic ending. The contempt and hatred was the ruin that plagued the characters in the play until their deaths.

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Works Cited
Agnes, Michael ed. Chief -“Webster’s New World Pocket Dictionary” Cleveland, OH. A Simon and Schuster Macmillan Company 1997 April 2004
Jones, Laura- (Screen writer) “A Thousand Acres” Smiley, Jane G. United States 1997 Touchstone Pictures 1997 April 30, 2004
Lennox, Charlotte- Charles Wells Moulton 8 vols. “Shakespeare Illustrated” vol. III p.287
The Library of Literary Criticism of English and American Authors, ed. Buffalo, NY 2003
Moulton Publishing, 1901 April 27, 2004
Levin, Richard- “King Lear Defamiliarized”. “Lear From the Study to Stage” Cranbury Associated University Press, 1997 Literature Resource Center. 2004 Galenet Chesapeake College Learning Resource Center, Wye Mills MD. April 27, 2004

Schlegel, Augustus William- Charles Well Moulton 8 vols. “Dramatic Art and Literature, tr.” Black Lecture XII The Library of Literary Criticism of English and American Authors, ed Buffalo, NY 2003 Moulton Publishing, 1901 April 27, 2004
Shakespeare, William “The Tragedy of King Lear” The World of Literature Louise Westling, et al. Boston, MA. Pearson Publishing Co. 1999 April 2004
Smiley, Jane G. – (Laura Jones) “A Thousand Acres” Nixon, Lois LaCivita and Wear Delese 12/29/93 Knopf New York, NY ed. 1991 April 26, 2004

King Lear

King Lear In Shakespeare’s classic tragedy, King Lear, the issue of sight and its relevance to clear vision is a recurring theme. Shakespeare’s principal means of portraying this theme is through the characters of Lear and Gloucester. Although Lear can physically see, he is blind in the sense that he lacks insight, understanding, and direction. In contrast, Gloucester becomes physically blind but gains the type of vision that Lear lacks. It is evident from these two characters that clear vision is not derived solely from physical sight. Lear’s failure to understand this is the principal cause of his demise, while Gloucester learns to achieve clear vision, and consequently avoids a fate similar to Lear’s. Throughout most of King Lear, Lear’s vision is clouded by his lack of insight.

Since he cannot see into other people’s characters, he can never identify them for who they truly are. When Lear is angered by Cordelia, Kent tries to reason with Lear, who is too stubborn to remain open-minded. Lear responds to Kent’s opposition with, Out of my sight!, to which Kent responds, See better, Lear, and let me still remain (I.i.160). Here, Lear is saying he never wants to see Kent again, but he could never truly see him for who he was. Kent was only trying to do what was best for Lear, but Lear could not see that. Kent’s vision is not clouded, as is Lear’s, and he knows that he can remain near Lear as long as he is in disguise.

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Later, Lear’s vision is so superficial that he is easily duped by the physical garments and simple disguise that Kent wears. Lear cannot see who Kent really. He only learns of Kent’s noble and honest character just prior to his death, when his vision is cleared. By this time, however, it is too late for an honest relationship to be salvaged. Lear’s vision is also marred by his lack of direction in life, and his poor foresight, his inability to predict the consequences of his actions.

He cannot look far enough into the future to see the consequences of his actions. This, in addition to his lack of insight into other people, condemns his relationship with his most beloved daughter, Cordelia. When Lear asks his daughters who loves him most, he already thinks that Cordelia has the most love for him. However, when Cordelia says, I love your Majesty/According to my bond, no more nor less (I.i.94-95), Lear cannot see what these words really mean. Goneril and Regan are only putting on an act.

They do not truly love Lear as much as they should. When Cordelia says these words, she has seen her sisters’ facade, and she does not want to associate her true love with their false love. Lear, however, is fooled by Goneril and Regan into thinking that they love him, while Cordelia does not. Kent, who has sufficient insight, is able to see through the dialogue and knows that Cordelia is the only daughter who actually loves Lear. He tries to convince Lear of this, saying, Answer my life my judgment,/Thy youngest daughter does not love thee least (I.i.153-154).

Lear, however, lacks the insight that Kent has. He only sees what is on the surface, and cannot understand the deeper intentions of the daughters’ speeches. As his anger grows from the argument, his foresight diminishes as he becomes increasingly rash and narrow minded . When Lear disowns Cordelia, he says, we/Have no such daughter, nor shall ever see/That face of hers again (I.i.264-266). He cannot see far enough into the future to understand the consequences of this action. Ironically, he later discovers that Cordelia is the only daughter he wants to see, asking her to forget and forgive (IV.vii.85).

By this time, he has finally started to gain some direction, and his vision is cleared, but it is too late for his life to be saved. His lack of precognition had condemned him from the beginning. Lear depicts Shakespeare’s theme of clear vision by demonstrating that physical sight does not guarantee clear sight. Gloucester depicts this theme by demonstrating clear vision, despite the total lack of physical sight. Prior to the loss of his eyes, Gloucester’s vision was much like Lear’s.

He could not see what was truly going on around him. Instead, he only saw what was presented to him on the surface. When Edmund shows him the letter that is supposedly from Edgar, it takes very little convincing for Gloucester to believe it. As soon as Edmund mentions that Edgar could be plotting against him, Gloucester calls him an Abhorred villain, unnatural, detested, brutish villain (I.ii.81-82). He does not even stop to consider whether Edgar would do such a thing because he cannot see into Edgar’s character.

At this point, Gloucester’s life is headed down a path of damnation similar to Lear’s because of a similar lack of sight. When Gloucester loses his physical sight, his vision actually clears, in that he can see what is going on around him. When Gloucester is captured by Cornwall, Gloucester provokes him to pluck out his eyes: But I shall see The wingd vengeance overtake such children. Cornwall. See’t shalt thou never. Fellows, hold the chair.

Upon these eyes of thine I’ll set my foot. (III.vii.66-69) When Gloucester is saying this, he still lacks clear vision, and would never have seen vengeance taken upon Cornwall. When Cornwall puts out his eyes, Gloucester’s vision becomes clear from this point on, and he later discovers that Cornwall was killed. Ironically, Gloucester does not see vengeance until after he is blinded. In this sense, Cornwall also suffers from clouded vision because his death is a direct result of his blinding of Gloucester, when a servant kills him. As a result, Gloucester is spared and his vision is cleared, while Cornwall is left a victim of his own faulty vision.

From this point onwards, Gloucester learns to see clearly by using his heart to see instead of his eyes. It is evident that he realizes this when he says: I have no way and therefore want no eyes; I stumbled when I saw. Full oft ’tis seen, Our means secure us, and our mere defects Prove our commodities. (IV.i.18-21) In this, he is saying that he has no need for eyes because when he had them, he could not see clearly. He realizes that when he had eyes, he was confident that he could see, while in reality, he could not see until his eyes were removed. Afterwards, he sees with his mind instead of his eyes. Gloucester’s vision can be contrasted with that of Lear.

While Lear has the physical sight that Gloucester lost, Gloucester has the clearer vision that Lear will never gain. When Lear and Gloucester meet near the cliffs of Dover, Lear questions Gloucester’s state: No eyes in your head, nor no money in your purse? Your eyes are in a heavy case, your purse in a light, yet you see how this world goes. Gloucester. I see it feelingly. ( Here, Lear cannot relate to Gloucester because his vision is not clear, and he wonders how Gloucester can see without eyes.

Although Lear has seen his mistakes, he still believes that sight comes only from the eyes. Gloucester tells him that sight comes from within. Vision is the result of the mind, heart, and emotions put together, not just physical sight. This is a concept that Lear will never understand. In King Lear, clear vision is an attribute portrayed by the main characters of the two plots.

While Lear portrays a lack of vision, Gloucester learns that clear vision does not emanate from the eye. Throughout this play, Shakespeare is saying that the world cannot truly be seen with the eye, but with the heart. The physical world that the eye can detect can accordingly hide its evils with physical attributes, and thus clear vision cannot result from the eye alone. Lear’s downfall was a result of his failure to understand that appearance does not always represent reality. Gloucester avoided a similar demise by learning the relationship between appearance and reality.

If Lear had learned to look with more than just his eyes, he might have avoided this tragedy.

King Lear

King Lear Throughout the first Act of King Lear there is one overwhelming topic, which can not be overlooked. That is to say that the two main families in this play, Lears’ and Gloucesters’, are both following basically a parallel plot that is developing at different plains of existence. Those plains exist on an aristocratic ladder, Lears’ family at the top and Gloucesters’ family at the bottom. There are different characters and minor diversities in each family, but at the basic level of events that occur, there is an unmistakable similarity between the lives of the two families involved in King Lear. The first of the three key parallel plot lines in King Lear is in the decision making of Lear and Gloucester. Both of these men make very rash and important decisions in the first act that involve their offspring. First Lear, who after hearing his favored daughter’s response to his dowry deciding question, responds; “Nothing will come of Nothing.” (Scene 1, Line 93).

By this he decides without any hesitation that his favored daughter, Cordelia, shall receive no dowry and thus be banished from the kingdom. Now almost mirror like, Gloucester makes an equally impulsive decision about his favorite son, Edgar. After reading a forged letter by his bastard son, Edmund, Gloucester decides that Edgar does want to kill him and decides that Edmund will instead receive his estate. Those two decisions are both equally unfair to their own favored offspring. Scheming is the next parallel plot line involved in King Lear. Edmund as mentioned above is scheming to get his father’s inheritance.

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He has made several references to this in his soliloquy in Scene 2, like when he said, “Edmund the base shall top the legitimate; I grow; I prosper.” (Scene 2, Lines 20 – 21). He then forged a letter on his brother’s behalf outlining the plans of Edgar to kill their father. Now in Lear’s family, there is Regan and Goneril scheming to make sure that their father will not reverse his decision to split the dowry between them. They make a pact that states, “Pray you let’s hit together. If our father carry authority with such disposition as he bears, this last surrender of his will but offend us.” (Scene 1, Lines 304 – 306).

The daughters wished to keep their father at bay and stay in control. Both families are scheming to get or keep that which should not be theirs. The last, but maybe the most important of the parallels between the two families, is that of Lear and Gloucester both being old and senile. First there is Lear, whose fits and decisions are beginning to make people question his sanity. Although no one seems willing to confront the king for fear of the consequences, the fool knows no such bounds.

When the fool does confront him, Lear seems to be aware of it and responds by saying, “O, let me not be mad, not mad, sweat heaven! Keep me in temper; I would not be mad!” (Scene 4, Lines 44 – 45). Lear though aware of it can do little to stop or even slow it down. Now Gloucester, whose sanity may be more stable at the moment is definitely making poor decision and is not thinking clearly. In fact, he is blaming much of the trouble in the kingdom as of late, on such superstitious things as eclipses. He even mentions it to Edmund when he says; “These late eclipses in the sun and moon portend no good to us.” (Scene 2, Lines 103 – 104). He is clearly bewildered and overwhelmed by the current events and is too disoriented to clearly evaluate things. Both men are not mentally well, which may lead to more bad decisions in the future.

These two families are essentially living out the same plot. Neither meeting yet, but even though the people are different, these two plots are too similar to not have some major underlying connection. The two plots must begin to intersect to complete the play. It will be the way that Shakespeare accomplishes this that makes or breaks this play.

King Lear

Shakespeare’s tragedy King Lear is a detailed description of the consequences of one man’s decisions. This fictitious man is Lear, King of England, who’s decisions greatly alter his life and the lives of those around him. As Lear bears the status of King he is, as one expects, a man of great power but sinfully he surrenders all of this power to his daughters as a reward for their demonstration of love towards him. This untime abdication of his throne results in a chain reaction of events that send him through a journey of hell. King Lear is a metaphorical description of one man’s journey through hell in order to expiate his sin.

As the play opens one can almost immediately see that Lear begins to make mistakes that will eventually result in his downfall. The very first words that he speaks in the play are :-
“…Give me the map there. Know that we have divided
In three our kingdom, and ’tis our fast intent To shake all cares and business from our age, Conferring them on younger strengths while we Unburdened crawl to death…”
(Act I, Sc i, Ln 38-41)
This gives the reader the first indication of Lear’s intent to abdicate his throne. He goes on further to offer pieces of his kingdom to his daughters as a form of reward to his test of love.
“Great rivals in our youngest daughter’s love,
Long in our court have made their amorous sojourn,
And here are to be answered. Tell me, my daughters
(Since now we will divest us both of rule, Interest of territory, cares of state), Which of you shall we say doth love us most?
That we our largest bounty may extend
where nature doth with merit challenge.”
(Act I, Sc i, Ln 47-53)
This is the first and most significant of the many sins that he makes in this play. By abdicating his throne to fuel his ego he is disrupts the great chain of being which states that the King must not challenge the position that God has given him. This undermining of God’s authority results in chaos that tears apart Lear’s world. Leaving him, in the end, with nothing. Following this Lear begins to banish those around him that genuinely care for him as at this stage he cannot see beyond the mask that the evil wear. He banishes Kent, a loyal servant to Lear, and his youngest and previously most loved daughter Cordelia. This results in Lear surrounding himself with people who only wish to use him which leaves him very vulnerable attack. This is precisely what happens and it is through this that he discovers his wrongs and amends them.

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Following the committing of his sins, Lear becomes abandoned and estranged from his kingdom which causes him to loose insanity. While lost in his grief and self-pity the fool is introduced to guide Lear back to the sane world and to help find the lear that was ounce lost behind a hundred Knights but now is out in the open and scared like a little child. The fact that Lear has now been pushed out from behind his Knights is dramatically represented by him actually being out on the lawns of his castle. The terrified little child that is now unsheltered is dramatically portrayed by Lear’s sudden insanity and his rage and anger is seen through the thunderous weather that is being experienced. All of this contributes to the suffering of Lear due to the gross sins that he has committed.

The pinnacle of this hell that is experienced be Lear in order to repay his sins is at the end of the play when Cordelia is killed. Lear says this before he himself dies as he cannot live without his daughter.

“Howl, howl, howl! O, you are men of stones.

Had I your tongues and eyes, I’d use them so
That heaven’s vault should crack. She’s gone for ever!
I know when one is dead, and when one lives.

She’s dead as earth. Lend me a looking glass.

If that her breath will mist or stain the stone,
Why, then she lives.”
(Act V, Sc iii, Ln 306-312)
All of this pain that Lear suffered is traced back to the single most important error that he made. The choice to give


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