King Lear

Shakespeare’s King Lear and Shirwadkar’s Natsamrat: A Comparative Study

November 21, 2021 by Essay Writer


William Shakespeare is one of the greatest names in the world of English literature and same is the case with Vishnu Vaman Shirwadkar who is one of the renowned writers in the domain of Marathi literature. Both writers have their own genius and greatness and there could be no comparison between their writing. Both have proved their metal in the field of Language, literature and drama. English being the language of British colonial rule; today has become the global language and Marathi is confined to a limited regional area. But the writers with heavenly ingenuity have no barriers of land and boundaries. This has been proved by many writers across the world who have broken these boundaries by the genius of their writing. King Lear is world famous tragedy of William Shakespeare which is translated and adapted in various languages of the world. The play Natsamrat written by V. V. Shirwadkar is inspired from King Lear but it has its own originality and greatness. Present paper aims at finding how the play Natsamrat is similar to King Lear in thematic configuration, treatment of tragic vision and dramatic motive but still has its own treatment, uniqueness and enormity.

William Shakespeare and Vishnu Vaman Shirwadkar

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) is an ever shining name in the field of English literature and dramatic activity. His plays have brought him immortal fame. The immortal writer of thirty seven plays has tried to touch almost everything through his plays which makes his plays immortal. Though these plays are created in the last decade of sixteenth century and at the outset of seventeenth century they seems to be built on the elements common to the life of all the people in all the times. Themes of his plays are not outdated and still seem fresh and applicable in present time. Approximately more than 500 plays and 660 films are based and inspired on the themes of Shakespearean drama. He is the most translated, trans-created and adapted writer of the literary world. We find the translations, trans-creations, film creations and adaptions of his dramatic works in almost all the languages of the world.

Vishnu Vaman Shirwadkar (1912-1999) is one such great name in the field of Marathi literature. He was a popular Marathi poet, playwright, novelist, essayist and short story writer who wrote with the pen name Kusumagraj. His literary career of five decades started in pre-independence era of India. He dealt with almost every literary form in his literary career. He wrote 16 collection of poems, 8 short stories collections, 7 volumes of essays, 3 novels, 18 full length plays and 6 one-act plays. His collection of poems Vishakha (1942) and play Natsamrat (1962) are considered among the masterpieces of Indian literature. He was conferred with many State and National awards including highest literary honor of India Dnyanapith Award in 1987, Padma Bhushan in 1991 and Sahitya Akademi Award in Marathi for his classic play Natsamrat in 1974.

King Lear and Natsamrat

The play ‘King Lear’ was first performed on 26 December 1607 and published in 1608. It was perhaps, written either late in 1605 or early in 1606. The text of the play King Lear in modern edition is based on a collection by scholars of the two Quartos those appeared in 1623 and 1632. King Lear was popular play in Shakespeare’s own time and also in later years. It is one of the most widely staged, performed and adapted play worldwide. The plot deals chiefly with the faithlessness of the children towards their parents bringing forth the pathetic story of King Lear and Gloucester.

On the other hand Natsamrat is a masterpiece by V. V. Shirwadkar which cannot be called as translation or adaption of King Lear. It is inspired or based on the model of King Lear. The play Natsamrat was written in 1962. Like King Lear it deals with the story of a father who has compelled to live pathetic life because of his children. The play was a huge success on Marathi stage and gained Sahitya Akademi Award for the writer in 1974. The writer, Shirwadkar confesses stating his motive of creation of the play ‘Natsamrat’, that he modeled his play on Shakespeare’s King Lear:

I received the plan of transforming ‘King Lear’ for certain a great actor of Marathi theatre. In the place of the king, the great, I visualized in my mind an age-old great actor. And he alone possessed my mind. I present that picture to the readers and spectators. (qtd. in Natsamrat, 7)

Thus Shirwadkar clearly states that he had image of old Lear while picturing the pathetic life of Appa Belwankar, the central figure of his play,. But still both the plays have their own individuality and domain. Natsamrat though is an inspiration from King Lear but has its own class and uniqueness. This comparison can be well understood with certain limitations based on the following points.

King Lear and Natsamrat: Plot, Characters and Story

King Lear, the eighty year old king of Britain decides to divide his kingdom among his three daughters and then retire from the throne. He takes the decision of this division on the basis of display of daughter’s affection for him. The elder daughters Goneril and Regan are cunning and insincere; they flatter their father knowing his nature without having any love for him and become successful in getting larger part of the kingdom. On the other hand Cordelia the youngest daughter who loves her father so dearly but is honest and sincere; expresses her feelings in most simple words which displease her father. The king fails to distinguish between the flattery and genuine affection and disowns and disinherits her completely and divides his kingdom between Goneril and Regan. He decides to live in turns with these two daughters and from here his real misery starts. Goneril treats him with utter disregard and Lear curses on her and decides to go to Regan’s house. Regan refuses to give shelter to her father until he has completely apologized to Goneril. The two sisters join hands to give all possible pains to the old soul and the heart broken king leaves her house in a fit of fury in stormy night. The mighty king of the past takes shelter into a hovel. Cordelia comes for his rescue but she is also killed according to the instructions of her sisters and Edmund. Brokenhearted Lear could not bear this agony and dies.

Natsamrat is a tragedy of a veteran theatre actor Ganapat (Appa) Belwankar who has enjoyed an enormous success, name and fame for his dramatic performances and acting during his prime time. He had acted in various plays based on the works of various renowned writers and especially Shakespeare. He usually remained the center of attraction and at the top during his acting career. After his dominating and shining career of over forty years at the theatre he decides to divide everything between his two children; a son and a daughter. He decides to live rest of his life in the loving company of his children. But the aging father and mother are no more wanted by their children. The play reveals extremely tragic fate if Appa Belawankar and his wife Kaweri who become victim of fate in old age. This is similar to the turn of fate and fortune in the life of mighty Lear because of the wrong doings of his elder daughters. Appa initially takes shelter into his son Nanda’s flat, finds solace and amusement in the company of his little granddaughter Thami. But as the days pass both Appaa and Kaweri find it difficult to cope up with the changed behavior of their son Nanda and daughter in law Sharada.

They decide to go and live with their daughter Nalu and son in law Sudhakar. Their also they get sheer disappointment. Though the son-in-law Sudhakar has no problem with them but daughter Nalu is not happy with the whimsical behavior of her old father. She even checks the trunk of her parents in order to search money stolen from her house. This gives a great shock to the old souls who have given everything to their children. They decide to leave the house in a stormy night. Appa’s greatest support Kaweri dies and this great man collapses. This is a story of a humanist who yields to the ill fate and destiny. He bears great suffering after retiring from the stage. The aging theatre artist and his wife begin to feel unwanted by their own children. This story is contrasted by the story of Appa’s friend Kalwankar and his wife. The couple has no children. This is a great sorrow and want of their life. Mr. and Mrs. Kalwankar are leading the life for each other. They often become sad by watching the complete family filled with children and grandchildren of other people. But Kalawnkar is rather happy and thanks God for keeping them childless by watching the pathetic condition of Appa and Kaweri, the couple who have sacrificed everything for their children.


As an actor Appa has played various roles in his life. He has portrayed many characters from Shakespearean drama. He remembers various roles he has played in the past such as Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Julius Caesar etc. He seems to be an embodiment of Lear who is perhaps deceived and disappointed by his own children. This might have resulted due to his pride and nature. Shirwadkar has the picture of old Lear while creating the character of Appa Belwankar. In the play Natsamrat, Shirwadkar pictures on the stage, the broken and proud Lear in the form of Appa Belwankar. The central theme of both plays is faithlessness of the children and tragic end due to behavior of close relations. We find many similarities in psychological and behavioral traits of Lear and Appa. Both the plays have shared the intense heartbreaking vision. Both the dramatists have cleverly made the use of soliloquies to lay bare the heart of the central characters and to give an insight into their personality. They portray the sufferings and pain resulting out of the destructions in human relations. Thus the play Natsamrat seems to be much similar to King Lear in thematic arrangement, treatment of tragic revelation and dramatic intention.

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