The Count of Monte Cristo and King Lear
It is man’s path to struggle with his destiny and writers have long written about such a battle in a man’s inner soul.In the works of Alexandre Dumas and William Shakespeare such a battle is best described in their comparable works, “The Count of Monte Cristo” and “King Lear”.It is the purpose of this paper to present either novel, and the main male protagonists in the stories and pit them against each other as well as have them share in their twined destiny of faults, failures and eventual redemption.
Dumas weaves a story about a man, Edmond Dantes whose life becomes entangled in another man’s vengeance and is subsequently doomed to life imprisonment.
These actions are out of the protagonist’s control as he is neither aware of the person for whom the letter is intended that he is carrying to Paris (it is actually supposed to be given to Bonapartist father) nor of the rival against him, Danglars. It would thus appear as though Dantes is allowing his destiny to be overtaken from his free will.
In Shakespeare’s “King Lear” Lear also allows to be a rather flotsam figure on his own path, being lead this way and that, not from a guidance of reason but by happenstance, bad luck, and fate. Blindness is recognized in the play by Lear’s grotesque nature and how he cannot stand to see the world, or kingdom he created. In King Lear’s distrust of his daughters he one by one makes himself disowned by them I prithee, daughter, do not make me mad. I will not trouble thee, my child; farewell.
We’ll no more meet, no more see one another. But yet thou art my flesh, my blood, my daughter; Or rather a disease that’s in my flesh, Which I must needs call mine. Thou art a boil, A plague sore, an embossed carbuncle In my corrupted blood. But I’ll not chide thee. Let shame come when it will, I do not call it. I do not bid the Thunder-bearer shoot Nor tell tales of thee to high-judging Jove. Mend when thou canst; be better at thy leisure; I can be patient, I can stay with Regan, I and my hundred knights.
” (Shakespeare II. iv. 1514). Blindness is a factor in either author’s tale. For Dumas, he allows his character to remain faithful to himself but also he makes him blind to the events and circumstances surrounding him. Dantes is sent to prison, but it is in prison where he finds Abbe Faria, who teaches his about philosophy, languages, music, history, and it is in this knowledge that Dumas allows the hero to gain self confidence that he would not have otherwise come to had he not been imprisoned.
It seems that either author depends a great deal upon unusual circumstances and luck (either perceived as good or bad luck) to progress the plot forward for the characters. Both characters have to face where their loyalties lie, or where the people’s loyalties lie who surround them. In “King Lear” the focus of the married daughters who are proven to be evil and usurpers of their fathers power while the younger daughter, the innocent unmarried one proves to be the only supporter King Lear has although he blindingly distrusts her from act one.
The theme of “King Lear” is suitably that of loyalty from the female caste whether in faithfulness or disloyalty. With the theme of loyalty there must also be a theme of vengeance as these two factors often walk hand in hand. It is proper for Dantes to want to seek vengeance on an unjust act done to him out of jealousy from Danglars. Although it takes Dantes nine years for his plan to put into action, it takes Lear merely three acts for his vengeance to take shape on Cordelia’s life and Lear’s blindness. For, what is the purpose of having a protagonist who does not learn anything?
Lear learns of his mistakes with distrusting his daughter Cordelia and by trusting his other daughters- therefore, because he was blind to this distrust in a metaphorical sense he must be made blind physically in order to find redemption for his actions. Dumas takes a different approach in his protagonist’s story. Dumas gives Dantes an education as well as a treasure but the idea of vengeance swallows any joy he may have gleaned from his newly found position in life as the Count of Monte Cristo. It is with a heavy heart (after finding out about his father’s death) that Dantes goes to Marseilles and then on to other European cities.
Despite this occupying thought of revenge, Dantes does manage to try and save Caderousse, but is unable to help the man because Caderousse’s greed is his downfall. Although he is given two chances of redemption from Dantes he falls into a life of crime and is killed. Both authors need to have progression, change or punishment in their works in order for the reader to find the humanity in the protagonists, for, without their humanity Dantes’ revenge would be a fool’s errand and Lear would not have blinded himself after seeing the error of his ways.
The parallels of greed in political power (another form of the grotesque in Shakespeare’s play) are presented in how Goneril and Regan seek political power by their ability to strip the King of all his train of followers, by rejecting the King’s title, and turning him out into the storm, “…entreat him by no means to stay” (III. 1. 297). Also, Edmund has high political aspirations by allowing Gloucester to be blinded for his own political gain, “Hang him instantly [Regan]…Pluck out his eyes [Goneril]” (III. 7. 4-5), and he usurps Edgar’s legitimate title as the future Earl of Gloucester.
Furthermore, Kent and Edgar both lose their nobility, the Earl of Kent is banished for his honest defense of Cordelia, and Edgar loses his claim to nobility through the deceit and trickery of Edmund. Political greed was also seen with Caderousse as well as Dantes’ other enemies who have grown wealthy and more corrupt since he has been in prison. Both author’s hinge their characters on the edge of redemption and give them each a scenario in which they can either grasp this ultimate gift and be free of blame or hate, or they can become criminals of love and honor.
The authors are the same in this account, they allow their protagonists to find their redemption: For Lear, it is blindness, for Dantes it is shown in the mercy he gives to his enemy Danglars. In their redemption either man finds love again: Cordelia’s for her father Lear and Haydee for Dantes. Bibliography Dumas, Alexandre. “The Count of Monte Cristo”. Penguin Classic. 1992. Shakespeare, William. “King Lear”. Penguin Classic. 1998.