Essay: King Lear – relationships, power

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  • Subject area(s): Literature essays
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  • Published: July 9, 2021*
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  • King Lear - relationships, power
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In William Shakespeare’s poem King Lear, the character King Lear is an aging king with no male heir to inherit his throne, who decides to play a game with his three daughters, Cordelia, Goneril, and Regan in order to determine who would inherit the biggest piece of his land after his death. King Lear was unable to perceive the truth about what was going on in his kingdom. He didn’t realize that Regan and Goneril didn’t love him. They were only pretending while his daughter Cordelia who truly loved her father refused to play the game. This clearly showed a power struggle within the family. The two daughters Regan and Goneril decided to make a run for the power like a government coup. In this poem there is another relationship shown with King Lear and Gloucester. Gloucester is this guy that has two sons Edgar, the legitimate son and Edmund who is illegitimate. Gloucester speaks badly of his illegitimate son Edmund in public. Doing so causes a family rift where Edmund wants to find a way to hurt Gloucester.

This shows another power struggle where the children rise up in some way against their parents. Different circumstances leads to different to different power struggles. Parents are supposed to provide a safe environment for their children. The way a parent handles certain situations makes a great deal of difference. It is stated in the Bible in the 10th commandments Thou shalt honor thy mother and father. The meaning of honoring our parents is a command, which we dare not ignore. But there is a second reason for carefully studying the 5th commandment. Honoring our parents is one of the highest callings and greatest tasks we face in life. In Lear’s situation, the way that his power can be shown as being taken for granted is at the beginning of the when he divides up his kingdom between his daughters. Lear’s plan is to give the biggest piece of land from his kingdom to the child that loves him the most. Out of all of Lear’s daughters, his favorite daughter, is named Cordelia and he knows that she will win the challenge that he has put up.

While his other two daughters named Goneril and Regan, are evil and cruel, they lie to their own father with a mushy tale of love and affection towards him. Since he thought that his favorite daughter didn’t love him here is a quote, to support how upset King Lear was when he is telling his daughter Cordelia that they will never be with each other again because of her removal from the kingdom,

“I prithee, daughter, do not make me mad. I will not trouble to my child. Farewell. We’ll meet no more, no more see another. But yet thou art my flesh, my blood, my daughter Or rather a disease that’s in my flesh” (Lines- 215-218).

However, Cordelia rejected to play Lear’s game, wanted him to love her because she is his daughter.

Lear hears what she wants, but he decides against which makes him insane. So he becomes enraged with angry and he casted Cordelia completely from the family. An article that supports this is, “Rebirth and Renewal in Shakespeare’s King Lear”, which talks about, King Lear and what he did throughout the poem and what it comes down into the end of the poem, because, Lear seeks applause for his childlike ways and that he can’t detect the difference between the truth and falsehoods. When his youngest daughter, Cordelia answers him in a straightforward and honest way, “I love your greatness according to the bond I have with you; no more nor less”, Lear becomes shocked, disinherit Cordelia and divides her third of the land between his other two daughters, Regan and Goneril (Lines-83-84). Then he banishes Cordelia from the kingdom and now that Cordelia is now banished/deprived the King of France, who was visiting Lear’s court is seeking her hand in marriage and he still wants to be with her forever.

Also, in the poem King Lear is shown to act like a child sometimes almost childlike, he acts as he is cruel with passionate feelings, he is also kind as well. He wasn’t mature enough and didn’t have the ability to manage his emotions. King Lear occasionally had a violent temper that was out of control and he also had an adverseness to what he didn’t want to see. Lear also, gives Cordelia away in marriage to the King of France. A quote that supports King Lear is giving one of his daughters away in marriage is,

“Peace Kent! Come not between the dragon and his wrath. I loved her most, and thought to set my rest of her kind nursery, Hence, and avoid my sight! So be my grave my peace, as here I give her father’s heart from her. Call France. Who stirs? Call Burgundy (Lines-113-118).

Another article that I have read to support this evidence is, “King Lear and Chaos”, which talks about the turmoil that King Lear has caused to his country and to his kingdom from bestowing over his land to his daughters Regan and Goneril. The article states like the Biblical stories in the Bible, an example of this is, the story about Lot and his daughters. Who decide to get him intoxicated to continue their family line through him since he has no male heir to take over for him?

King Lear begins with a kind of the same matter at hand with no male heir to take over his kingdom he divides his land up between his three daughters and it begins a search for order in his division of people. Lear destroys his kingdom and kingship, by believing that he is creating a new world order. His reason, “To shake all cares and business of our state, conforming them on younger years” (Lines-40-41). It seems that King Lear is being kind of selfish to his people and his land. He was tired of being king and he wanted his daughters to take care of him in his elderly years. To those who are close to him, it’s apparent that his mind is unstable and that he doesn’t fully understand or realize what is going on in the kingdom and what he is doing for the kingdom as well.

His family and friends attempt either to redirect him and his thinking into the right path or to take advantage of it. In addition, in the poem there is Gloucester, who is a friend to King Lear and is betrayed by his son Edmund in believing that his other son Edgar is coming up with a plan against him and trying to kill him. At the beginning of the poem with Gloucester is branded a traitor for helping King Lear, and he is blinded by Cornwall who is the husband of Regan and when his eyes are taken out, he realizes that his son Edmund betrayed him, “All dark and comfortless. Where is my son Edmund? Edmund, enkindled all the sparks of nature to quit this horrid act” (Lines-85-87). Then he finds out the truth that Edgar was the son that always was on his side,

“Oh, my follies! Then Edgar was corrupted and betrayed by Edmund. Kind Gods, forgive me that, and prosper him” (Lines-88-89).

In the poem Edgar is with his father wants to show him how valuable life/faith is and that he shouldn’t be gone from existence.

So he takes his father to the place he wants to go but, he doesn’t take him toward the cliff instead they are on top of a hill. Edgar tells his father to jump, Gloucester does jump and he thinks that he has fallen off of the cliff, in reality he just falls on his face. Edgar tells him different stories during his time with him to restore his faith in religion and his faith in living. Upon the hill with Edgar, Gloucester gets on his knees and says, “O you mighty Gods! This world I do renounce, and in your sights shake patiently my great affliction off” (Lines-35-36). Within the poem there is another article that I read which is called, “I Stumbled When I Saw”: Interpreting Gloucester’s Blindness in King Lear”. Which talks about, Gloucester’s blindness is the same as Lear’s madness, both of the characters representing the destruction of themselves and their human existence.

Both are major issues with the way the play works and its tragic clash with the characters themselves in the play as well. Shakespeare understands how human emotions work when they come out when Gloucester is blinded by Cornwall and the powerful meanings behind what is being done in the play. Another key element in the poem is, when Cordelia and Lear are imprisoned, locked up together. Before, Cordelia is about to be killed, Lear kills the guard who is trying to hang him and he kills the guard who strangles Cordelia to death. In an instance it is shown that Lear shows compassion and more faith and shows that he is a father more than a king in that instance when his daughter is killed right in front of his eyes. His daughter is the only thing that he cared about, even when they were jailed together, she was all that he thought about, “No, no, no! Come, let’s away to prison. We two alone will sing like birds i’th cage.

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