Some ramblings on King Lear (Shakespeare) and Oedipus (Sophocles)

lear and oedipus

For school it is a part of the almighty God-ruling, grade-deciciding AO scheme to compare Oedipus and King Lear — both as two separate, complex characters in their own right, and as two different plays from very different times.

It is often the latter that provides more marks (mainly due to the fact it allows for more hits into the AOs), so for the sake of my sanity (and revision for my exam on Tuesday) I’m going to go with the former for this comparison.

Since I’m better at analysing images than I am at the Shakespearean language, let’s start with the cover. My cover of King Lear (the Heinemann Advanced edition) sort of shows the three main prevailing themes of the play through three simple pictures.

Said edition.

Said edition.

The main image that catches your (or at least my) eye is the lightning bolt going through Lear’s crown. If you’ve read the play, then you’ll of course see the significance of this (and if you haven’t, go and fucking read it because it is such a wonderful play, but having to read it and analyse it to death for school sucks the life out of the enjoyment so read. it. before. it’s. too. late), the significance being the fact that it represents Lear’s sanity and mind, like the weather, is often unpredictable and uncontrollable, like a force of nature, and also foreshadows the onslaught of pathetic fallacy from Shakespeare. This insanity therefore leads to his inevitable downfall as king, but re-birth as a human being. Next is the image of the hanging man. What struck me about this image was that you do not know if this person has been hanged as a punishment, or if he has decided to hang himself. This can be interpreted in many ways, but for me, in the context of the play, it emphasises the theme of justice vs. injustice Shakespeare presents, as well as the idea that audiences need to be constantly questioning these characters and their motives: is it really Goneril and Regan who bring Lear to his downfall, or is it his own mind? Yes, Cordelia was murdered, but she very well knew the risk she was taking to come back to Lear – so really she went on a journey to inevitable death to help her father. These are characters who have a death wish, wether they are aware of it or not.

Similarly, these themes and ideologies follow through into Oedipus: Oedipus’ lack of desire to listen to anyone else but his own mind suggests his ignorance, stagnant mind-set, and arrogance; his hubris is his, to quote Aristotle, hamartia.

And, yes, while Oedipus is probably more mentally stable than Lear (this isn’t a competition guys!!), they are both just as bad at being a king as the other — Lear’s too unsure, whilst Oedipus is too sure. It seems tragedies are used to explore the idea of what would happen if a character/human being only had one facet, which is interesting as Kings and Queens are definitely seen as figures that almost always have one character-defining trait: resistance.

Kind Lear’s first words are not from Lear himself, but the trustworthy (completely love-able) Kent: ‘I thought the King had more affected the Duke of Albany than Cornwall’ – this opening line immediately shows the internal conflict in the family, Lear’s mind and the matters of inheritance and property law, whilst Oedipus’ ‘My children, fruit of Cadmus’ ancient tree’ connotes his role as a father figure to his kingdom, along with his confidence and authority. Yet, these characters end up going on a similar journey, resulting in the same ending.

Both of their last lines summarise the journey they have been on: Oedipus cries ‘Ah no! Take not away my daughters!’ and Lear asks ‘Why should a dog, a horse, a rat, have life, And thou no breath at all?’ Life cannot be lived without death.

Sick, Sad World

Life-long experienced graphic designer or 17 year old teen with no Photoshop installed on her computer? The world may never know...

Life-long experienced graphic designer or 17 year old teen with no Photoshop installed on her computer? The world may never know…

Teenagers are usually represented as dumb, ignorant and self-obsessed. While this is true for some teenagers (just like it’s true for some adults), it’s a deeply disconnected representation. For a long time we had no one to relate to, no one to represent us and not make fun of us.

And then along came Daria. Daria is a TV show about a 17 year old girl who is disconnected from the peers that surround her. She hates their superficiality, obsession for social groups and shallow-ness. She’s probably one of the most quotable teenagers to have ever come out from this world. Here are some for your inner angsty-ness and general distaste for the world:

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If you want to know more cool facts and analysis that I am not educated enough to give yet, then watch the video of NostalgiaChick below — it’s like watching Daria give a review of her life:

After Daria, there wasn’t really a TV show that respected teenagers and their hormones and vulnerability mixed with that odd feeling of being aware of your mortality yet having random bursts of “I AM IMMORTAL!!” for no particular reason. This generated a collection of think pieces and articles reminiscing over The Show That Knew Teenz, and also a generation of new teenagers (me being one of them) that magically stumbled upon this show that no one had ever told you about before, making it feel special and close to your heart because you discovered this and no one else in the whole wide world knew about it…kind of. My generation of people (holy crap I sound so egotistical) has been left with next to no mainstream films/TV shows/novels that encompass the feeling of being a teenager, or showed a teenager in an actual fucking realistic light rather than shoving in our faces how unhappy and blind sighted we should be because we’re not all rich, privileged and pretty. We’re not allowed to watch shows to look for ourselves anymore, at least not in the ‘teen genre’, instead we’re only allowed to watch to escape because our lives and what we have to say is so obviously unimportant it doesn’t deserve any attention.

However, thanks to some god-like figure there is some hope left. Once in a while the men that control what everyone in Hollywood thinks, feels and talks about decide to not act like total capitalist assholes and actually take a risk and let us have something with depth. Of course, most of the time it isn’t due to these men, but rather the people behind the shows and films that have worked so hard for them to be commissioned/sold/shown, and for some odd reason teenagers like it when they can relate to characters and have voices representing us that we like? Like, why would we ever want that? So, the men in suits with lots of excess money in their hands see they’re going to make money out of this and HOORAH! A TV show/film that doesn’t make you lose hope with the world is born. What a beautiful life.

Below are the fictional Queens of Youth from TV shows and films that I believe every girl should watch before she reaches 18 (I recommend playing godly, angelic music for this section of the post) (also these are limited only to the films and shows I’ve watched, so if you have any other recommendations/personal favourites the please comment them below!!) (enough parenthesis let’s go):

Tina

BE STILL MY BEATING HEART. Tina is my personal hero and queen and she just encapsulated everything I am, want to be and probably will be. From her love of butts to her ability to literally not care what people think (she doesn’t even think what people think — she just does it) Tina Belcher will always have my <3.

veronica

Oh, Veronica. The amount of times I have watched Heathers. The amount of times I have dreamt of having a relationship like your’s and J.D.’s (before the killing/suicide part). I love Veronica Sawyer because she is gutsy, admits to her flaws and her general message is to just be nice. Michael Lehmann and Daniel Waters have my wholehearted respect for making this film, as it was such a big move, and, despite the dark comedy and themes, focus is still placed on the angst of being a teenager, and taking seriously. “Dear diary, my teen angst bullshit now has a body count” will forever be my favourite quote.

lyd

Winona Ryder appreciation part 2. Tim Burton never presents Lydia Deetz’s angst and sadness as being overemotional or stupid. Instead, like the others on this list, importance is placed on these feelings and this film captures perfectly the sadness felt in youth.

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I feel liked Lisa is often overlooked since she’s on the longest running American sit-com and animation, but she is such a good character. She is multi-faceted, cares about boys, but also her education, and often exposes gender-roles, misogyny and prejudice.

The point with this is that it’s important for us teenz to have characters we can relate and look up to, and often the biggest mistake with producers and the Men With Money isn’t them making clichéd characters (in fact that’s perfectly fine, since most characters are clichés, but are played and written well so it doesn’t mock them — see The Mindy Project), but rather them not taking a teenager’s emotions and angst and hormones seriously. We need these characters in our lives, because at times, youth does feel unbearable — and who are we going to run to when it feels as though we have no one else?