Worlds Depicted in Shakespeare's King Lear

William Shakespeare's play, King Lear, presents us worth two worlds that are worth comparing when look at the nature of man. The world we encounter at the beginning of the play is familiar and something to which we can relate. The world we encounter at the end of the play is nothing less than brutal and one to which we hope we will never have to relate. One is seemingly realistic in that is gives the impression as normal as it can be under the circumstances; the other is so tragic, it is actually outside of our realm to imagine. Shakespeare sets these worlds in opposition to illustrate the damage we can do when we lose focus on what is important in life. It is to our advantage that we learn from Lear's mistakes so we do not make them ourselves. He lived a long life and he made terrible mistakes and Edmund realizes that his life and death will not be in vain if there is something that can be gained from them. That which is important will not have a price tag attached to it nor will it be measured in material wealth.

The first world in the first scene of the play is realistic and familiar to us. We have two men discussing the kingdom, the king, and Gloucester's son. It seems typical in that the two seem to be making small talk as they wait for the king to arrive. The subplot between Gloucester and his sons is also significant when we look at the different worlds that King Lear presents to us. Gloucester loves his two sons evenly, even though it would not be unreasonable at that time for the man to renounce his bastard son. Instead, he admits to Edmond's inappropriate conception without blushing. However, while Gloucester indicates the inappropriate way in which Edmond was brought into the world, he cannot "wish the fault undone, the issue of it being so proper" (Shakespeare I.i.16-7). Gloucester speaks of his legitimate son that is "no dearer in my account" (I.i.19). Furthermore, Gloucester does not harbor any ill will toward Edmond's mother, claiming that she was "fair" (I.i.21) and that the couple experienced "good sport at his making" (I.i.21-2). When Edmond is introduced to Kent, he demonstrates that he is very well behaved and knows how to mind his manners. This conversation is one that we would think of as real and concrete. These men have an amiable consideration toward one another and their honesty is unfailing. Even when Gloucester must admit that he has a child out of wedlock, he does so without disparaging the child because the child, regardless of how he came into the world, is a decent human being. In this scene, we also see two men that can interpret clearly what is before them. In addition, this world is something we can see actually envision occurring.

The world we experience in the final scene of the play is one that is brutal. We encounter men discussing the appalling atrocities that have occurred and their painful aftermath. In this scene, we see that King Lear has come to his senses about his foolish behavior throughout most of the play. Kent, Edgar, and Albany remain after the devastating acts in the drama and we must bear this in…