Paper Assignment #2 (Inferno / King Lear)
Both Shakespeare’s King Lear and Dante’s Inferno explore the reasons for and results of human suffering. Both works postulate that human suffering comes as a result of choices that are made. That statement is not only applicable to the characters in each of the works, but also to the readers. The Inferno and King Lear speak universal truths about the human condition: that suffering is inevitable and unavoidable. While both King Lear and the Inferno concentrate on the admonitions and lamentations of human suffering, there is one key difference between the works: the Inferno has an aspect of hope that is not present in King Lear.
The unavoidable aspect of human suffering is depicted brilliantly by Shakespeare in King Lear. Seemingly insignificant choices that King Lear makes throughout the play end up completely changing his life for the worse. Not only does Lear lose his kingdom, but he also loses his family and his home. His situation is only made worse by him not recognizing his fault in his own actions. Lear’s lack of responsibility when it comes to his own problems is best described by Kent: “It is the stars, the stars above us govern our conditions” (Shakespeare 101). Kent and Lear blame all of their suffering on the will of a higher being, neglecting that their own actions brought them to a place where they have to suffer. By not recognizing his responsibility in the events that are happening to him, Lear causes more strife for himself and those around him. He continues to make the same mistakes like falling victim to Regan and Goneril’s flattery and ignoring Cordelia’s wise words. In addition, Lear was constantly advised by the Fool and Kent not to make such poor choices. Lear’s own stubbornness prevented him from seeing the wisdom in the Fool’s words. Similarly, in the Inferno, Capaneus is a man whose punishment comes as a result of his own defiance. Capaneus was told that his fate would be to almost conquer a...
Cited: Dante. Inferno. New York: Penguin, 2003. Print.
Shakespeare, William. King Lear. New York: Penguin, 1999. Print.
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