Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Grotesque in King Lear

"strange, fantastic, ugly, incongruous, unpleasant, or disgusting...often used to describe weird shapes and distorted forms. In art, performance, and literature, however, grotesque may also refer to something that simultaneously invokes in an audience a feeling of uncomfortable bizarreness as well as sympathetic pity

These NSFW King Lear Illustrations Are Gorgeous—And Incredibly Grotesque G. Wilson Knight, "King Lear and the Comedy of  the Grotesque,"  the point is made that not only are tragic pathos and ridiculous nonsense intermingled most clearly in the storm scenes with Lear, Edgar in his role of 'poor Tom', and the fool, but that even the barbarously cruel events of the play are not devoid of a kind of comedy that these days we would call 'black'

'Go thrust him out at gates, and let him smell His way to Dover' is Regan's comment after Gloucester's eyes are put out.

The effect of the grotesque here is to screw even tighter the cruelty and tragedy: one's reaction to Regan's remark would not be so intense were it not expressed in the form of a witticism. And how are we to react, if not with a maximum of pity and with a sense of the comic which only increases the piteousness to the brink of the unbearable, to the blind Gloucester' s mock death? 

Shakespeare's greatest achievement was to experience the comedic elements of the play while not crossing the line of bathos 


  1. Is it okay to post part of this on my website basically post a hyperlink to this webpage?

    1. That's absolutely fine - I'm glad you're enjoying it