King Lear Paper

Submitted By John-Shisler
Words: 3572
Pages: 15

King Lear Paper
John Shisler
Bluefield College King Lear was written by William Shakespeare and first performed in 1606. The play is classified as a tragedy. A tragedy is defined by as “a play in which the protagonist, usually a man of importance and outstanding personal qualities, falls to disaster through the combination of a personal failing and circumstances with which he cannot deal” or “a play in which the protagonist is overcome by a combination of social and psychological circumstances” (“The free dictionary,” 2003). This is to say that one of the main characters of the play, which is normally a male figure, usually causes their own downfall, either due to their own mistakes or because of how society looks at them. In King Lear, the protagonist is none other than the title character, King Lear. There are quite a few themes in King Lear that could be considered the major theme of the play. That being said, I consider the major theme of the play to be the relationship between parents and children. King Lear and the Earl of Gloucester bring out this theme right at the beginning of Act I, Scene 1. Gloucester mentions his “whoreson” (Shakespeare, 1999, 1.1.22), or his illegitimate son. The Earl of Kent and Gloucester speak of how Gloucester has not spoken of or acknowledged Gloucester’s son until now. Gloucester also speaks of how Edmund, the illegitimate son, is no less cared about than his legitimate son. Very shortly after this discussion, King Lear arrives with his three daughters, Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia. The king speaks of dividing his kingdom equally amongst his daughters, but he wants to hear which of them loves him more first. Both Goneril and Regan tell their father what he wants to hear by saying there is no man in their lives more important than him, even though they are married. Cordelia, on the other hand, decides to be more honest with her father, stating “I love your majesty / According to my bond, no more nor less” (1.1.92-93). She is stating that she has the proper amount of love that a daughter should have for her father. She goes on to chastise her sisters, stating “Why have my sisters husbands if they say / They love you all? Haply, when I shall wed, / That lord whose hand must take my plight shall carry / Half my love with him, half my care and duty. / Sure I shall never marry like my sisters, / [To love my father all.]” (1.1.99-104). She is stating that her sisters should have love for their husbands in the proper respect as well as having love for their father. Cordelia can see that her sisters are trying to manipulate their father to get into his favor even more. Sadly, her honesty works against her as King Lear decides to not divide his kingdom into three equal parts, but two equal parts, cutting Cordelia out of her dowry and inheritance. With these actions taken by the king, there are obvious conflicts arising. The Earl of Kent made his feelings known to the king, stating that King Lear should not reward his daughters who flattered him with lies while disowning the daughter who had the courage to tell him the truth. After telling the king how he feels, Kent is also banished. There is also a conflict arising between the two eldest daughters and the king. They want to make sure they are able to push the king out of having any power and authority in what they now deem to be their land. They determine that their father is probably not thinking properly in his old age, hence why he banished the daughter that he always, as Goneril points out, loved more than he did the two of them. As we continue in Act I, Edmund, Gloucester’s bastard son, complains about how society treats illegitimate children, stating “Thou, Nature, art my goddess; to thy law / My services are bound. Wherefore should I / Stand in the plague of custom, and permit / The curiosity of nations to deprive me, / For that I am some twelve or fourteen moonshines / Lag of a brother” (1.2.1-6). In