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King Lear

Essay by   •  February 3, 2011  •  Essay  •  1,726 Words (7 Pages)  •  1,358 Views

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Through the course of the play, King Lear goes through a process of

attaining self-knowledge, or true vision of one's self and the world. With this

knowledge, he goes through a change of person, much like a caterpillar into a

butterfly. In the beginning, King Lear's vanity, and the image and exercise of

power dominate his person. But a series of losses (based on his own bad

decisions), a "fool" of a conscious, a powerful storm, a "supposed" crazy man,

and the death of the one who truly loved him, clear his vision and allow him to

see the himself and the world as they truly are. The pain and suffering endured

by Lear eventually tears down his strength and sanity. Lear is not as strong,

arrogant, and filled with pride as he was in the beginning of the play instead

he is weak, scared, and a confused old man. At the end of the play Lear has

completely lost his sanity with the loss of his daughter Cordelia and this is

the thing that breaks Lear and leads to his death.

In the beginning, King Lear shows his need for praise is how he chooses

to divide his kingdom among his daughters. The one who praises him with the most

"gusto" shall receive the largest area of land. This is even more evident when

you consider that he already has divided up the kingdom before the praising even

begins. As evident as he gives each daughter her land before hearing the next

daughter's praise. Thus the who thing is just a show and an ego boost to himself.

It is because of his love for praise that makes him react so strongly to

Cordelia and Kent when they do not act, as he would like them to. It could be

said he is like a child who doesn't remember all that his family has done for

them, but only sees them saying no to a piece of candy. In the play, this is

shown in his banishment of Cordelia and Kent. Kent is probably one of the most

loyal people in the room (not to mention his kingdom), and it is Cordelia that

truly does love Lear. But because they choose not to contribute to this "ego

trip", they are banished. In fact, he threatens to kill Cordelia if she is found

in ten days. Lear says,

"Upon our kingdom; if, on the tenth day following,

Thy banished trunk be found in our dominions,

The moment of thy death. Away! By Jupiter,"

This shows that at the beginning of the play, King Lear feels that his image is

more important than the life of his favorite daughter. This hunger for "image

attributes" is further shown when Kent presents himself to King Lear after being

banished, but in disguise. Kent wants to gain employment as a servant to the

King uses Lear's gull ability to praise in order to win the position. In this

case, it's the image of authority that Kent appeals to. The dialog is as follows:

Lear: Does thou know me, fellow?

Kent: No, sir; but you have that in your countenance which I would fain call master.

Lear: What's that?

Kent: Authority

As with many of today's corporate jobs, saying the right things to those in

charge can get you many things regardless of your qualifications. Because Kent

tells Lear that he "radiates" authority, Lear gives him a chance to serve him.

"King" Lear continues to show his need for "ego reinforcement" with his

keeping of a hundred "knights". These "knights" are hardly around for noble

deeds as one might assume knights to be doing. They are in fact are merely

Lear's fair-weathered friends who eat, drink, and go hunting with him. They

provide a blanket of security by always praising Lear, and leaving him someone

he can exercise command over. His need for them becomes more apparent when

Goneril suggests that not keep them. Lear becomes extremely angry with her, which

is shown when he asks the gods to render Goneril unable to bare children. Lear

says;

"Hear, Nature, hear! Dear goddess, hear!

Suspend thy purpose, if thou dist intend

to make this creature fruitful!

Into her womb convey sterility!

Dry up in her the organs of increase;

...

...

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