Die Heuning Pot Literature Guide
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King Lear

King Lear

Analysis

King Lear as Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis: Tragedy Plot

Christopher Booker is a scholar who wrote that every story falls into one of seven basic plot structures: Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, the Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy, and Rebirth. Shmoop explores which of these structures fits this story like Cinderella’s slipper.

Plot Type :

Anticipation Stage

Lear looks forward to hanging out with Cordelia during his peaceful retirement.

King Lear doesn't fit this part exactly. Lear's initial "anticipation" is more like the dream stage. Unfortunately, his dream doesn't get the chance to blossom into idealistic and unrealistic expectations, since it gets squashed before we can go much further.

The Dream Stage

Even though Cordelia has been banished, Lear thinks he can retire happily and still enjoy the perks of being King. He and his 100 knights party heartily at Goneril's house.

Like we said, Lear doesn't fit this perfectly. Usually, the dream stage is the flowering growth of the anticipation stage, and the object of anticipation is one and the same with the object of the dream. Here, however, Lear loses his anticipation and settles for a rather inferior dream.

Frustration Stage

First Lear fights with Goneril, then Regan, then both of them together. They want him to get rid of his knights and stop acting like he's in charge.

Part of the frustration for Lear is that this situation is so unbelievable. These are his own daughters, not to mention he just gave them his entire kingdom.

Nightmare Stage

Lear spirals into mental illness; Gloucester gets his eyes plucked out; civil war is brewing, but not before international war is waged; and people start dying.

Lear expressed earlier that the last thing he wanted was to go mad. So, that qualifies Lear's current mental illness for the nightmare stage. Don't forget about Gloucester, either, who's in his own blind and torturous nightmare.

Destruction Stage

Death, death, and more death.

In this stage, all of Lear's children die, as well as Cornwall and Edmund, and eventually Lear himself. Also destroyed is Lear's dream to be with Cordelia, the same "anticipation" we started with. It's also the destruction of lives, the Lear monarchy, and from what we can tell from the war and the resulting political situation, the entire nation of Britain.

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