My Understanding of King Lear

A high school english assignment, in which we had to give a speech outlining our understanding of Shakespeare’s “King Lear”. I decided to give mine in a pseudo-Shakespearean rhyme. I hope those who also have some understanding of King Lear find this at least a little bit amusing 🙂

King Lear

The tale of King Lear is one of tragedy and suffering,

Of 14 who lives write the pages of this play,

But seven do remain, for even the king

Doth lose his life in this calamitous display.

And in a count of these seven,

Whose hearts have ceased to thud,

But three were as noble of spirit, as they were of blood.

The ill fortune accounting for their demise

Allow the remaining good souls a reflective reprise.

Both solemn and woeful they mourn the actions

That lead to the death of these pitiful factions.

The king himself, more sinned against than sinning,

By misdeeds he himself committed, has set the wheel spinning.

Taunted by the foolish fiend that caused his one true daughter fled,

Though in the end his wisdom is gained, both he, and her, are dead.

And caught in the torturous pull of the parallel plot,

Gloucester as well must join this wretched lot.

His fatal flaws reflecting those of Lear’s,

He no longer has eyes to hold off hot tears.

Insight through blindness, wisdom is gained once the cruelty is done,

His foolishness had hidden that the son, who spoke of evils in his ear,

Was indeed the sole evil one.

Yet for this account to remain true, it must be said,

Of those lives held within the cover of this book, truthfully, eight are dead.

A humble servant proves his noble soul in Gloucester’s defence,

Proving yet again that what something appears to be is often pretence.

But what of those four whose lives were less than angelic?

Through wounds of their own sins their blood doth run thick.

Each miscreant’s deeds are repaid in full, which proves it is true,

That thou should only do unto others as they would do unto you.

It may have been Lear’s foolishness that gave his daughters the liberty

To cause him harms without conscience, in their cruelty.

But his foolishness was embodied in the image of love and generosity,

As he sought in his old age to divide his kingdom among the younger three.

His flaw was the need of some proof of their love,

And a belief that among mortal men, he stood above.

His inability to distinguish what was true and what false

Brought his enemies to his side, whilst his allies where lost.

His rejection of Cordelia and Kent was a reflex of his love,

Her humble and unflattering speech proved not enough.

Lear’s blindness did not allow his heart to see fidelity

And verbal proof his daughter refused to give as flattery.

The one sin he committed by shunning his friends

Is not deserving of such saddening ends.

Through the malicious actions of Goneril and Regan, to death, many where lead,

But the true tragedy lies in the good souls that are dead.

Each metaphorical fly lay in a web of betrayal

With each trusting gesture, in their coffin went a nail.

The ones they loved and trusted stripped them of all dignity

Until their final glimpse of hope that was shadowed by a deadly finality.

We judge Lear as a fool for his actions in the start

Yet the tragedy of his plight holds resonance in the heart.

My understanding of King Lear is as such,

If it is love and worship you crave, don’t beg for it… too much,

The reward you offer will attract false friends,

Whose vicious actions have vicious ends.

Also, do not outcast your comrades for you may not find another,

For no matter what things appear to be, you can’t judge a book by its cover.

6 thoughts on “My Understanding of King Lear

  1. Biz says:

    Love it Selina! We read Lear for my Dramatic Analysis class a little bit ago. And speaking of Shakespeare I am so excited because my University is performing Twelfth Night next semester!

  2. Diana Garland says:

    I love your commentary on King Lear done in rhyme. You capture the spirit of the play along with the lyricism of Shakespeare’s language. King Lear is my favorite of his tragedies. The interaction between King Lear and the Fool make the play for me.

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