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A Comparison of King Lear and Coriolanus

A Comparison Of Compassion and Identity in King Lear and Coriolanus

Shakespeare’s Lear and Coriolanus have a great deal in common. Both are first seen as proud, stubborn rulers unwilling to compromise. This causes Lear to lose his kingdom to his scheming daughters, while Coriolanus is betrayed and exiled from Rome due to the influence of the tribunes. Cast out to face a friendless world, Lear learns to sympathize with his fellow men, who daily endure trials such as those he now faces. Coriolanus, in contrast, goes immediately to Aufidius upon being banished and prepares to return, this time to conquer his own home state. His identity as a soldier remains constant, untroubled by internal reflection, and admits no room for empathy for others.

We first see Lear as an autocratic dictator when he divides his kingdom and banishes Cordelia. He rules with an iron fist, refusing to accept advice from anyone. His chief flaw is the tendency to believe he must always be correct. This self-imposed perfection leads to a separation between him and his flawed, human subjects. He simply cannot relate to their way of seeing life, cannot see himself as connected in any way with humankind as a whole. His concern does not extend beyond what immediately touches him and cannot embrace the interests of his subjects, as it should. An example of Lear’s inability to understand anyone’s perspective but his own occurs when Kent attempts to persuade him to abandon his folly. Lear cannot accept what he sees as Kent’s criticism and banishes his advisor. He states:

Thou hast sought to make us break our vows,

Which we durst never yet, and with strained pride

To come betwixt our sentence and our power,

Which nor our nature nor…

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…. “King Lear’s ‘Immoral’ Daughters and the Politics of Kingship.” Shakespearean Criticism, Vol. 61. Ed. Michelle Lee. The Gale Group: Farmington Hills, 1999.

Brooke, Stopford, A. On Ten Plays of Shakespeare. London: Constable and Company Ltd., 1948.

Campbell, Oscar James. “Shakespeare’s Satire: Coriolanus. Twentieth Century Interpretations of Coriolanus. Ed. James E. Phillips. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1970. 25-37.

Dennis, John. “Selected Criticisms.” Reader’s Encyclopedia of Shakespeare. Ed. Oscar James Campbell. New York: Thomas Crowell Company, 1966. 148-149.

Farnham, Willard. “Shakespeare’s Tragic Frontier: Coriolanus. Twentieth Century Interpretations of Coriolanus. Ed. James E. Phillips. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1970. 55-61.

Shakespeare, William. King Lear. Ed. R.A. Foakes. Surrey: International Thomson Publishing Company, 1997.

The Renewal of Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment

The Renewal of Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment

Raskolnikov, in Dostoevsky’s novel Crime and Punishment, is a complex character difficult to understand. He believes himself superior to the rest of humanity, and therefore he believes he has the right to commit murder. After he kills Alena Ivanovna, an old pawnbroker, Raskolnikov discovers his supposed superiority has cut him off from other people. He exists in a self-created alienation from the world around him. Raskolnikov mearly drifts through life, unable to participate in it anymore. It is only through Sonya that Raskolnikov is able to gradually regain his connection to humanity; she helps him to understand that, although he cannot be superior to others, she loves him regardless. Although he finds it difficult to reject his theory that certain individuals may commit acts not permitted ordinary people, Raskolnikov does accept that he is not such an individual, that he is ordinary. Through this realization and Sonya’s love for him he finds the strength to confess to his crime and accept responsibility for it; this allows him to slowly began to rejoin the world around him.

It is initially difficult to understand why Raskolnikov plots to murder the old pawnbroker. As a compassionate person, Raskolnikov finds the idea of violence abhorrent. Contemplating the murder of Alena Ivanovna, he dreams of an incident from his childhood when several peasants beat a horse to death. He is horrified at the senseless brutality and cruelty of the peasants; after Mikolka, the owner of the horse, slams a crowbar into the mare and finally kills her, the young Raskolnikov runs to the body, sobbing, and kisses the mare, then tries to attack Mikolka. He asks his father, “Papa, why did t…

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…al of a man, of his gradual regeneration, of his slow progress from one world into another.” Although dearly purchased, Raskolnikov has at last found inner peace.

Works Cited

Barnhart, Joe and Linda Kraeger. Dostoyevsky on Evil and Atonement: The Ontology

of Personalism in his Major Fiction. Lewiston, New York: Edwin Mellen Press, 1992.

Cameron, Norman, trans. Freedom and the Tragic Life: A Study in Dostoyevsky. By

Vyecheslav Ivanov. New York: Noonday Press, 1960.

Dostoevski, Feodor. Crime and Punishment. Trans. Jessie Coulson. Ed. George Gibian. New York: Norton, 1964.

Gibson, A Boyce. The Religion of Dostoyevsky. Philadelphia: Westmenster Press, 1973.

Morsm, Gary Saul. “How to Read. Crime and Punishment.” Commentary 1992 June

O’Grady, Desmond. “Dostoyevsky Lives: Apostle of Interior Freedom.” Commonweal November, 1994: 6-7.

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