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King Lear Vs. the Stone Angel

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Essay title: King Lear Vs. the Stone Angel

It has been said that, “Rivers and mountains may change; human nature, never.”( This is a quote that can be deconstructed when examining William Shakespeare’s King Lear and Margaret Laurence’s The Stone Angel. When reviewing the two books the main characters, King Lear and Hagar, are easily comparable. The first similarity becomes apparent when King Lear and Hagar are both developed as flawed characters. Secondly, because of their flaws the two characters become blind to reality. Thirdly, after being deceived by themselves and others as a result of their blindness, both characters seek refuge outside of their own homes. By leaving their homes the characters are able to gain perspective on themselves and their pasts. Finally, despite these similarities between King Lear and Hagar, a significant difference prevails after the characters experience their epiphanies and are awarded a chance to redeem themselves. When exploring King Lear and The Stone Angel it becomes clear that although both main characters engage in similar journeys to self discovery a critical difference between the two books exists in the character’s ability to redeem themselves after their epiphany.

It first became clear that Shakespeare’s King Lear and Laurence’s Hagar Shipley were similar main characters when their personalities were developed with flaws. King Lear was immediately revealed as an imperfect character when he was shown in his somewhat conflicting roles as a father and a king. After resolving to divide his kingdom amongst his three daughters Lear develops a way to decide how his power and land will be divided. Looking to his three children Lear probes, “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.”(I.i.49-54) It is at this point in the play that King Lear reveals himself as superficial. Knowing he had already divided his land in three Lear could have presented it to his daughters as each receives one third of the kingdom. However, Lear is flawed in that he is superficial and rather than hand over his land and power he would rather hear his daughters competitively praise him for it. Similarly to Lear’s flaw Hagar is also an imperfect character in The Stone Angel. Hagar, an elderly woman living with her son Marvin and his wife Doris, demonstrates the flawed qualities of being both too prideful and irrational. These qualities become apparent when Marvin and Doris talk to Hagar about selling their house. Being older themselves, Marvin and Doris decide that they can no longer provide Hagar with the care she requires and that it would be in her best interest to move into the Silverthreads Nursing Home. When Hagar finds our she quickly states, “Doris--I won’t go there. That place. Oh you know all right. You know what I mean, my girl. No use to shake your head. Well, I won’t. The two of you can move out. Go ahead and move right out. Yes, you do that. I’ll stay here in my house.”(57) Hagar is showing that she has too much pride to move into a home where she would be carefully monitored and assisted but is also being irrational by saying that she would remain in her house without Marvin and Doris there to help her. When comparing King Lear and Hagar Shipley their similarities are shown in the flawed character traits that they both possess.

The next similarity shown between King Lear and Hagar is that as a result of their personal flaws, both characters become blind to reality. After Cordelia fails to adequately profess her love to her father she is banished and the kingdom in divided between Lear’s other two daughters Goneril and Regan. During his stay with Goneril Lear becomes enraged in her poor treatment of him. He decides he and his train of men will be happier living with Regan. While Lear complains to Regan about her sister, Regan fully supports Goneril and openly condemns Lear leaving Goneril’s house. Faced with the reality that neither of his daughters truly love and support him as they had claimed Lear says to Regan, “No, Regan, thou shalt never have my curse.”(II.iv.170) After realizing her open lack of love for him Lear pleads to Regan and himself, “Thou better knowest/ The offices of nature, bond of childhood,/ Effects of courtesy, dues of gratitude./ Thy half of the kingdom hast thou not forgot,/ Wherein I thee endowed.”(II.iv.177-181) Because Lear superficially asked his daughters to profess their love, he has now been deceived by their falsely promoted emotions and is impervious to the fact that his daughters have used him to obtain their own power and possessions. In the same way that Lear is blinded to the actions of his daughters because of his flaws, Hagar is blind to her own actions because she is too prideful.

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