We’ve all seen shapeshifters through different storylines, some of them important, and some not. They may start off as evil, vile characters that we all dislike but love in the end, or a lovable character that twists from favorable to malicious with a snap. The tragedy, King Lear, written by William Shakespeare, is about a king, struck with two malicious daughters and one good one, and the shadow, Edmund, who plots to kill everyone to take land for himself.
The play demonstrates several themes and topics and portrays them enough for us to realize how important they all are. This tragedy has also one well-known example of a shapeshifter. A brilliant example is a character Albany in King Lear. The “coward” turned willpowered. From ineffective to vigorous, Goneril’s husband, Albany, grew continuously through the play. Because of his character’s ability to change consistently, he’s made his stance at the end; a trustworthy and strong symbol of justice.
During the beginning of King Lear, the audience sees the overall personality of Albany as weak, feeble, indecisive, and blind towards his wife’s, Goneril, actions. Albany was weak; he didn’t know of his wife’s intentions. He also didn’t seem to care or want to know what was happening with Goneril, including her plan to take some of the land as her own.
As stated in Act 1, Scene 4, Albany doesn’t seem to know what his wife intends as Shakespeare writes, “My lord I am guiltless, as I am ignorant of what hath moved you” (Lear. 1. 4. 265-266). His character is definitely a standby, and because of this, we see him as an extra. Albany is a weak man who is oblivious to Goneril’s intentions and that’s what we all see him as in the beginning, however this introduction is what brings him closer to being a true symbol of justice.
After the establishment of what Albany appears to be, we see him change through the circumstances that are soon brought to light. Albany’s character soon begins to nurture and develop as we see him becoming more of a trustworthy man. After his finding out of his wife, Albany’s transformation develops.
This occurs during Act 4, Scene 2, where Albany spits, “O Goneril, You aren’t worth the dust the wind blows in your face”. (Lear. 4. 2. 29-30). He decides to step up to her, only knowing that she’s treating her father poorly. Albany goes on to become a strong character who stands up to his wife. Since the has had this epiphany, he takes King Lear’s side, and the audience acknowledges him as a better character.
Speaking of the end, we see that Albany bestows himself as a strong and masculine character. He stands as a symbol of divine justice, and feels no empathy towards the fallen Regan, Edmund, and Goneril. In the end, specifically Act 5, Scene 3, Albany says finally that “This judgement of heavens, that makes us tremble, Touches us not with pity” (Lear. 5. 3. 243-245).
Now that he’s conquered his older self, Albany becomes a stronger and better person. Therefore, in the end, we see him not as an extra nor standby, we see him as an enforcer of justice, whose “constant and unchanging will of God” provides him with strength and nobility, which ultimately establishes his shapeshift (Catholic Church).
In conclusion, Albany’s transformation was a dramatic one. Going from a power-hungry, traitorous, and feeble-minded character to someone who enforces divine justice, Albany grows throughout the play, and very nicely at that. He builds his strength because of the challenges he faced. Albany had grown consistently throughout the play due to his wife’s actions and challenges involving King Lear as well as the kingdom had demanded for some sort of change, which we had perceived in the end; he had become a known symbol of divine justice.
You’ve probably seen a shapeshifter in movies or plays, whether it be the beast from Beauty and the Beast or Scar from The Lion King; it seems that no matter what movie or tale we come across, there’s always going to be a character which we all love and respect in the end, and Albany is a true example. Because of this, the character Albany in King Lear is one to remember. He stands as a symbol of justice and strength in which we all can view as something to gaze upon as true and mighty.
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