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Themes

Little Words, Big Ideas

Family

When it comes down to it, family relationships, especially those between fathers and children, are at the center of the play. (Characters who are mothers, as several critics have pointed out, are n...

Power

Much like Shakespeare's famous history plays, King Lear offers a meditation on kingship and power or, more accurately, the loss of power. After retiring and divvying up his kingdom among his ungrat...

Justice

The excessive cruelty and portrayal of human suffering in the play make the world seem terribly unjust. Throughout King Lear, characters constantly appeal to the gods for aid but are rarely answere...

Language and Communication

In King Lear, honest speech is admirable but language often falls short of being able to accurately express human emotion – a theme Shakespeare also explores in Sonnet 18 and Twelfth Night. K...

Gender

In King Lear, women are often seen as emasculating, disloyal, promiscuous, and the root of all the problems in the world. King Lear in particular has serious issues with women – when his daug...

Society and Class

King Lear offers some pretty insightful social commentary on everything from class and politics, homelessness, mental illness, the system of primogeniture, the tensions between youth and the older...

Loyalty

In the harsh world of King Lear, loyalty is rare. Surviving in an unstable political situation means that many people focus on the bottom line: saving their own skins. But there are some characters...

Compassion and Forgiveness

King Lear is an incredibly cruel play, and many of the characters are absolutely pitiless. Yet a few characters show extraordinary sympathy towards others' suffering. The human capacity to feel for...
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