The Expression Between Humans And Animals In Shakespeare's King Lear

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The distinction between humans and animals in fact depends upon humans, as only beings that possess reason can be reasonable, and only those with such an ability that then fail to be temperate are reduced to a subhuman being. Human status is reached “not merely through struggle within the individual but also through the struggle between individuals,” and Lear relies on diminishing his daughters in order to maintain supremacy (Fudge 67). Lear emphasizes his daughter’s vices by comparing their volitional sins to animals’ predetermined, instinctual behavior. But Lear also uses animal rhetoric to victimize himself. He claims that the pain of Goneril’s ingratitude is “sharper than a serpent’s tooth” and that she “struck [him] with her tongue/ Most …show more content…
As Höffele indicates, the captain’s attribution of the act of murder to human employment in Act V, Scene iii expressly signifies that the final crime in King Lear is not the result of animality. The character’s assertion, “I cannot draw a cart,/ Nor eat dried oats. If it be man’s work, I’ll do it,” demonstrates his willingness to murder Cordelia only because it is an action that requires cognition granted exclusively to man. Accordingly, the occupation is worthy of him, as he is not a horse. Men commit such vicious actions through the abandonment of reason, whereas an animals kill others without commiting sin because animals do not possess reason to begin with (Fudge 66). Therefore, while Lear primarily uses animal rhetoric to demonize others and garner pity for himself, Shakespeare conveys that humans are capable of evil that animals are not. This distinction between man and animals that clearly does not rank man above other living creatures further emphasizes Lear’s …show more content…
In writing amidst “then-current notions of animal self-sufficiency, moderation, and natural wisdom,” Shakespeare uses animal rhetoric in King Lear to reveal the extent to which Lear ignores reason and lacks self-awareness. (Shannon 128). Understanding early modern society’s emerging recognition of animal advantage contextualizes Lear’s animal comparison, and clarifies that, although Lear primarily utilizes animal rhetoric to reprove others, he is the being that fails to reach his moral

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