chapter  6
16 Pages

Promised Ends

King Lear
WithMarlena Tronicke

With Gloucester’s suicide attempt at the cliffs of Dover, King Lear contains one of the most peculiar scenes written by Shakespeare, and not only as far as suicide is concerned. Next to Lavinia, Gloucester is the second character who is denied suicide, a denial that amounts to a form of torture. Under Lear’s rule, increasing violence equals the gradual descent into total chaos. Perhaps unsurprisingly within such a context, death is a pivotal theme; as Michael Neill remarks, the “entire action is triangulated around three great negatives: ‘nothing’, ‘no cause’, and ‘never’.” 1 Apart from Gloucester and Goneril, whose respective deaths will be discussed on the following pages, three additional figures can be associated with the context of self-killing.