According the gods with the other suitors to

According to the Greek philosopher
Plato, human behavior flows from three main sources: desire, emotion, and
knowledge. (Plato Quotes) The result of one’s foolishness or folly leads to
catastrophic circumstances that often destroy or nearly destroy human beings as
a consequence of ill-considered judgment. In the poem Helen by Hilda Doolittle and the play King Lear by William Shakespeare, the protagonists bring upon
tragic ends for themselves, their families, and their people with selfish
decisions entirely based upon their desires. Although in Helen, it was written with the intention to enunciate an individual
following the aftermath of the tragedy, while King Lear depicts the gradual descent into madness of the title
character and the tragedy that follows.

 

The poem Helen is about Sparta’s backlash towards Helen of Sparta for being
the cause of the war between the Greeks and the Trojans. Helen of Sparta was the
most beautiful woman of her time, whose abduction from her husband, King Menelaus,
by the Trojan prince Paris started the Trojan War. Paris was promised the most
beautiful woman by the goddess Aphrodite, and so without considering the foolishness
and repercussion of his decision, he refused to return Helen to Menelaus. Menelaus
had gone through the selection of many suitors and even an oath to the gods
with the other suitors to support one another no matter who would take Helen as
their wife. By the oath they had taken together, Menelaus calls
upon the aid of all the other suitors to take Helen back from Paris which
started the Trojan War. Paris ultimately causes the death of himself in the war,
the downfall of Troy, and the greatest tragedy in Greek mythology.

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 After the war, Menelaus took Helen back to
Sparta, where she lived out her years until death. The bitterness voiced in first
stanza, “All Greece Hates”, the second stanza, “All Greece reviles,” and
the third stanza, “Greece sees, unmoved,” paints an image of unforgiving
hateful Greeks. Helen’s people refuse to feel sympathy for her until she dies,
because as long as she is alive, she is a painful reminder of the devastation
they had suffered, and. But they are not vengeful, as there is a way that they
can forgive her. In the poem, a white motif is used to describe the physical features
of a lifeless Helen, whose physical beauty has been burned out until nothing is
left but ash. The ash symbolizes physical death, and is nothing more than the white
and gray color of pale powder left from cremating her body. It is ironic how
her people can only love her in death. Further description of Helen is expanded
in the second stanza where Greece sees weakness in the beauty of the enchantresses’
face. And they begin to wonder if Helen looks weak because she also suffers
from melancholy and sorrow in the memory of “past ills”. In this poem,
Helen can be seen as the symbol of Greece itself. (Modern American Poetry)

           

On the other hand, King Lear is a play where most of the protagonists’
actions are devoid of any significant purpose outside of achieving their own
selfish goals; they are too consumed by their pursuit to gain power and pride
to think about the consequences of their actions and the poor treatment of
those around him. The characters pursue these goals at the expense of all else,
and the lives of other people including their own families are utterly
disregarded. This behavior results in a complete segregation of the family in King Lear, and the result of this
breakdown is devastating for the characters in the play as nearly all of them
meet a dreadful fate.

 

Perhaps no character is more
representative of this lack of meaningful purpose than Lear himself. Lear is a
king who couldn’t care less about the people he rules over; he is only
interested in maintaining his grand ego and ensuring that he is able to maintain
the kingdom without all the accompanying responsibility of the crown while
living a carefree and comfortable lifestyle. At the beginning of the play Lear
pits his daughters against each other to display their undying affection for
him in a contest, asking each of them to proclaim that they love him more than
their sisters do. He wanted to divide his kingdom among his three daughters,
the size of which to be determined by how much they gratified him. It is clear that
Lear values appearances over reality, and he likely never thought that the
words coming out of his daughters’ mouth may be fraudulent. The two eldest daughters-
Goneril and Regan profess their love for Lear to be “boundless” in speeches of
flattery, and his youngest daughter- Cordelia simply states that she loves him
according to her bond, no more. Out of anger, Lear foolishly disowns Cordelia
and splits the control over his kingdom between Gonreil and Regan. After
Cordelia, the only daughter who truly loved Lear is banished; Goneril and Regan
began to strip away Lear’s power, control, and influence over the kingdom
little by little until he is left with nothing.

 

Gloucester is another character in King Lear who is
depicted as a foolish old man. He was unable to see through Edmund’s lies about
his legitimate
son, and makes the same mistake of casting him away like Lear did to Cordelia. By
mistaking Edmund’s motives, Gloucester is blind to the events occurring around
him. He is not intuitive or quick enough to comprehend the plotting or crosscurrent
present around him. Gloucester puts the blames on the stars when something goes
wrong, and thus, he absolves himself of any responsibility for his actions.
When he is caught in the schemes of Edmund, Goneril and Regan, he becomes helpless
against them. In a duel, Edmund gets killed by Edgar, and Edgar reveals his
true identity to Gloucester who dies from a heart unable to take both grief and
joy. And Goneril, who poisoned Regan so that Edmund would be hers, commits
suicide.

 

Helplessly standing by as their
children turned on each other, both Lear and Gloucester failed as parents. The
last tenuous hold on his sanity, his kingdom, and his family was all lost
because of Lear’s petty selfishness. Gloucester’s blindness toward Edmund’s
need for praise resulted in his son’s wicked manipulations and subsequent death.
The forces of betrayal, jealousy, and death had done their work in the end.
Lear eventually entered a stage of dead bodies, howling in grief as a servant
laid Cordelia, who had tried to save him from her sisters on the bier. His
false hope of Cordelia showing signs of life was excruciating to watch, and he
settled himself beside his beloved daughter and succumbed to his heartbreak.

 

Both endings for the protagonists
in Helen and King Lear are catastrophic, brought upon by their foolishness and disastrous
desires. Paris, out of lust for the most beautiful woman caused a tragic war
and got his own city sacked, and even died in the process. He had lost his
rational at the promise of Aphrodite, and never reflected on the weight of his
actions before he went and abducted King Menelaus’s wife. Lear and Gloucester senselessly
cast away their only children who loved them from the bottom of their hearts, to
which they all end up dead. Lear did not accept the love that Cordelia spoke of
in honesty; he would rather drown himself in the false poisonous flattery of
Goneril and Regan that was coated with greed and underlining ambitions. Gloucester
never second guessed Edmund when he told him that Edgar was plotting against
him.  His fear of losing power made him gullible
to Edmund’s lie and cunning deceptions.

 

As we can see, from the poem Helen and the play King Lear, the foolishness or folly of oneself can bring upon
catastrophic circumstances that can destroy a city, a kingdom, or a family. The
protagonists let themselves become slaves to their desires, pride, and power,
which led them to their destructions. In the end, they gained nothing, lost
everything, or even ended up dead. Consequences of ill-considered judgments often
lead to unexpected dreadful results that often destroy or nearly destroy human
beings.