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Comparison Shakespears plays: King Lear vs. Hamlet

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William Shakespeare is probably the greatest dramatist of England. I think everyone has read one of his great plays or at least has seen one of the movies which are based on Shakespeare’s work. In this essay I will compare two of his tragedies ‘Hamlet, Prince of Denmark’ and ‘Tragedy of King Lear’.

King Lear is perhaps Shakespeare’s most psychologically dark tragedy. The naive and pitiable Lear with his children, Goneril, Regan and Cordelia present all that is right and wrong with a father’s relationship with his children. Lear is used to enjoying absolute power and to being flattered and he does not respond well being disagreed with and challenged. He wants to be treated as a king and to enjoy the title but he doesn’t want to fulfill king’s obligations of governing for the good of his subjects. At the beginning of the play his values are notably hollow; he prioritizes the appearance of love over actual devotion. Nevertheless, he inspires loyalty in subjects such as Gloucester, Kent, Cordelia, and Edgar, all of whom risk their lives for him. The tragedy illustrates the complete chaos which reigns in a state not governed by a strong ruler. Shakespeare constructed King Lear on an old folk story which exists in many countries and versions for example our version ‘Gold over salt’ which has same plot but ending of a fairy tale.

Hamlet is one of Shakespeare’s most popular works. This is the tragedy of suffering and hesitation of an honest man who is not able to kill or punish without having a clear proof of guilt.

Both of these books are tragedies, in both books there is quarrel going on within the royal family and in both the quarrel is between the children and their parents or relatives. Hamlet is looking for the revenge on his uncle for killing Hamlet’s father and he has to plan his murder. He is also upset with his mother who married the murderer of king Hamlet; he is very disappointed by her behavior.

In King Lear there are two quarrels between him and his daughters. The first one is between Cordelia and the King. When he asks his three daughters how much they love him two older daughters say that they love him above all, though it was not true but the youngest daughter, Cordelia, who is at the age in which a woman is about to marry, says she would give half of her love to her father and half to her future husband. He punishes her by giving her no property and banishes her out of his kingdom. The second quarrel is between two older daughters both of them want the kingdom and also get rid of Lear. After he gave them everything Goneril and Regan banished him. He is left in a cruel storm and he loses his wit: “Is a man no more than this? Consider him well. Thou ouwest the worm no silk, the beast no hide, the sheep no wool, the cat no perfume.” [Act III, scene II]

The quarrels in both tragedies seem at one and same time. Fighting between members of the families is always sad but it is different in the sense that Hamlet has to kill his uncle and Lear has to pay his consequences by betrayal of Goneril and Regan, losing Cordelia, losing the kingdom, the power and also his mind.

Also madness is a frequent motif in Shakespeare’s plays. In Hamlet, he saw the ghost of his father who told him the truth about his murder. To get the proof Hamlet starts to pretend madness and tests the story by having a play in front of the king. The king betrays himself by leaving in the middle of the play. Hamlet also heard his confession later: “O, my offence is rank it smells to heaven; It hath the primal eldest curse upon’t,

a brother’s murder. ” [Act III, scene II] Hamlet was never mad and the madness was supposed to help him to revenge his father. The cloak is seen in act II, scene II: “I am but mad north-north-west. When the wind is southerly I know a hawk from a handsaw.”

Hamlet is learned and educated but his studies did not prepare him to face the difficulties of life. He is a philosopher and that is why he has so many doubts: “To be, or not to be: that is the question.” [Act III, scene I] He cannot kill without hesitation. Hamlet is too honest, trying not to do any harm to anybody. I think that he is still under the influence of his great father even he is not alive anymore. He looked up to his father throughout his life, he tried to follow in his father’s footsteps but now he stands alone against his stepfather and doesn’t know how exactly revenge his father and to pretend madness is his way out, it gives him time to think about it and not be suspicious. It also gives him the freedom to break the court’s rules obedience without punishment.

In both tragedies we can see two different kinds of madness – Hamlet’s is fake and Lear’s is real. I think he really got mad because of the disappointment and the sorrow, of his bad decision and his blindness. I guess, he became mad because he desperately wished to get at “the beginning of the story” to change it. Now he knows he was wrong but there is nothing what he can do about it. I think that he stops being mad when he is found by Cordelia and tells her he is sorry, he gets back in touch with reality for a moment: “Where have I been? Where am I? Fair daylight? I am mightily abused. I am a very foolish fond old man. I fear I am not in my perfect mind.” [Act IV, scene 7] – he starts to care where he is and also accept the fact the he is not sensible. He only becomes mad again when he carries his dead daughter in his arms and still thinks that she is alive: “Cordelia, Cordelia! Stay a little. Ha! What is’t thou say’st?” [Act V, scene 3]

I think that the plot of both tragedies is different but they have same things such as quarreling between children and parents, also madness and psychological struggles of both protagonists. In both plays you can also see avidity and jealousy which lead to act against humans’ relationships – the sisters killed each other, betrayed their father, Edmund betrayed his brother and father, Claudius murdered his brother and wanted to kill his nephew Hamlet.

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