Comparison Between "King Lear" And "A Streetcar Named Desire"

1918 words - 8 pages

Tracing Aristotle's tragic hero model in "King Lear" and "A Streetcar Named Desire":Aristotle defines tragedy as a form of drama which imitates noble people through artistically enhanced language and through pitiable and fearful incidents. According to Aristotle, tragedy involves several aspects that eventually lead to catharsis, an emotional cleansing of the audience. Some of these aspects include pity, fear, reversal and recognition. Reversal of fortune (peripeteia) is "an incident in which the tragic hero undergoes a reversal of fortune to the opposite state of affairs" (Section 11). Recognition (anagnorisis) occurs when "the hero undergoes a change from ignorance to knowledge and brings ...view middle of the document...

Similarly, Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire possesses a tragic flaw of pedophilia. When Blanche is alone at home one evening, she is visited by a young man who is collecting for the local newspaper. After a short flirtatious conversation with the man, Blanche "crosses quickly to him and presses her lips to his (Williams 84)." Stanley informs Stella, later in the play, that Blanche lost her job at the Laurel High School after being terminated for getting "mixed up with (101)" a "seventeen-year old boy (101)." This, in turn, leads to her downfall as the truth is exposed to all during her stay with Stella. Stanley then "interferes with (129)" her dignity and rapes her when Stella is in the hospital. At the end, we see Blanche going to a mental asylum without putting up a fight, which shows that she knows that her end is near. Here we see that Shakespeare deals with same flaw Aristotle talks about in his Poetics i.e. pride, whereas, Williams uses a more mature theme of sexual desire as a flaw which appeals more to a 20th century audience. Therefore, Williams does not follow Aristotle's model as closely as Shakespeare.King Lear and Blanche Dubois undergo peripeteia (reversal of fortune), the first rule for protagonists in a complex tragic plot as proposed in Aristotle's poetics. In the first scene of King Lear, King Lear of England is planning retirement and wants to divide the land among his three daughters - Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia. In order to divide his land, King Lear asks, "Which of you shall we say doth love us most, / That we our largest bounty may extend" (King Lear 1.1.56-57), in other words Lear wants to distribute his land according to the flattery speeches of his daughters in order to feed his pride. While Regan and Goneril flatter King Lear with their elaborate speeches, Cordelia, to King Lear's surprise answers "Nothing, my lord" (King Lear 1.1.96). However, according to King Lear, "Nothing will come of nothing" (King Lear 1.1.99) and he refuses her dowry and makes Goneril and Regan his heirs. Ironic but expected, Goneril and Regan do not love their father as much because of his old age and feel that getting on the wrong side of King Lear could prove disastrous. Hence, Goneril tells Regan to act respectfully but strike while the iron is hot. These statements subtly hint at King Lear's approaching reversal from good to bad fortune due to the miscalculation of making two ungrateful daughters his heirs. This reversal of fortune becomes more evident when Lear stays in Goneril's house and Goneril accuses Lear's one hundred knights of making Goneril's house a zoo and demands Lear to reduce his train. Goneril's demand to "disquantity" (King Lear 1.4.256) his knights angers Lear and causes him to leave her house cursing her. Lear then moves to Regan's house where he finds his servant Kent in shackles. After Regan and Goneril question Lear's purpose of having a single knight, Lear becomes mad and wanders aimlessly during a storm....

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