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Analysis on Characters and Images in King Lear

Author WangZuo
Tutor NingPing
School Liaoning Normal University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords Shakespeare King Lear Archetype Character Image
Type Master's thesis
Year 2011
Downloads 86
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Generally acknowledged as one of Shakespeare’s great four tragedies, King Lear relates that what follows Lear’s abdication of throne is his two elder daughters’abandonment and the storm baptism. Going through all sorts of tribulation with the accompany of the fool and coming to his sense under his little daughter’s care, King Lear finally achieve his maturity in mind. King Lear has been exployed from various perspectives by critics so the explanations upon it emerge in an endless stream, but it is a rare thing to see a systematic and detailed analysis on this play from the perspective of archetypal criticism. Archetypal criticism has been influential during the latter half of 20th century, which is, in essence, a theory of literary criticism aiming to help critics study literature as one theoretic system and focusing on the close connection between literature images and mythical archetypes, on which account, this theory demands critics to review the role that archetypes play in the whole structure of a literary work. Considering the plentiful archetypes burried in this play, this thesis, adopting archetypal theory, is dedicated to exploring the deeper meaning hidden in the lines by analyzing relating elements of myths in the play.Started with a brief review of archetypal criticism, this thesis studies the archetypal elements in King Lear from two layers: archetyapl characters and archetypal images. The archetypes such as scapegoat, trickster as well as terrible and good mother have their show in this play. In addition, there are many archetypal images in this play among which the storm is the center image, and other images such as clothing, omens and“nothing”all of which with deep symbolic significance.From the analysis on archetypal characters and archetypal images in King Lear, it is clear that Shakespeare, through modeling the good image of Cordelia and giving the punishment upon evil forces, vividely shows the downhill of social morality, father of non-father, son of non-son and the evaporation of ethics and points out that the very essence of human life is to go through water and fire during which to search subliamtion of life.The thesis consists of five chapters:The first chapter is the introduction to the writer William Shakespears and his play King Lear, and the literature review of this work by critics abroad and at home as well as the reason and the significance of this thesis.The second chapter is the presentation of the theory adopted in the thesis which at first analyzes the concept of myth archetypes and then shows its development history as well as three outstanding critics in this area. The third chapter analyzes the archetypal characters in King Lear from the aspects of King Lear, the fool and Lear’s three daughters, among whom King Lear is the scapegoat of the whole country; the fool leads King Lear to finish his way from ignorance to richness; for the three daughters, Goneril and Regan are the terrible mother archetype while Cordelia the good mother.The fourth chapter analyzes the archetypal images in the play and shows their symbolic meanings: the storm meaning punishment and purification; the clothing represents the change of people’s status; omens speak out character’s thoughts and the word“nothing”contains everything.The fifth chapter makes a conclusion to this thesis and points out the shortage of this thesis and the possibility for futher study in this topic.

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