’s Death Essay, Research Paper
King Lear’s Death
At the end of Shakespeare’s play King Lear, Kent and Edgar survive to be offered their power and titles back so that they can jointly rule with Albany. The title character of the play is not so fortunate. Lear enters carrying the dead body of his loving daughter Cordelia, then collapses and dies beside her. Over the years, scholars of Shakespeare have debated whether Lear’s death was caused by his joy at believing Cordelia to be alive or his sorrow at believing her to be dead. The answer to this question lies in the text of the play when one analyzes the words spoken by King Lear. Upon accepting Cordelia’s death, King Lear’s overwhelming sorrow and guilt killed him, leaving Edgar to share power and Kent to forecast his own death.
Evil Edmund has had Lear’s daughter Cordelia hanged. King Lear still has hope that his only loving daughter, who he is carrying in his arms, is still alive. King Lear asks for a mirror to see if her breath will leave moisture on it, hoping to prove that she lives. She’s dead as earth. Lend me a looking-glass; If that her breath will mist or stain the stone, Why, then she lives. (Act V Scene 3) Lear then states that if his daughter were alive, then it would make up for all the unhappiness that he has had to face. It is a chance which does redeem all sorrows, That ever I have felt. (Act V Scene 3) Lear is tormented with two conflicting emotions at this point. On the one hand, he knows that Cordelia is dead and on the other hand he refuses to face the awful truth.
Lear feels guilty for not having saved his daughter but he still begs her not to die and believes that she us talking to him. At this point, Lear may believe that his daughter is alive in a spiritual sense. I might have saved her; now she’s gone for ever! Cordelia, Cordelia! stay a little. Ha! What is’t thou sayest? (Act V Scene 3) The most convincing evidence of the fact that Lear finally realizes that his daughter is dead comes in his speech, just before his death. And thou no breath at all? Thou’lt come no more, Never, never, never, never, never! (Act V Scene 3) Lear’s next two lines have to be interpreted carefully. They do not provide evidence that Lear believes that his daughter is still alive, just before he expires. Do you see this? Look on her, look, her lips, Look there, look there! (Act V Scene 3) These words can just as well be interpreted as confirmation that Cordelia is dead. Lear makes no reference to Cordelia’s lips moving and his words could mean, Look at her lips, they’re still not moving. Knowing that his loving daughter is dead would only add to Lear’s emotional pain as he dies.
As they watch Lear’s painful acceptance of Cordelia’s death, Edgar and Kent say very little. When King Lear dies, Kent suggests that Lear’s death is a welcome event. Vex not his ghost. O, let him pass! (Act V Scene 3) Albany, who has witnessed Lear’s death, offers both Kent and Edgar to jointly rule the land with him. Kent refuses the offer and tells and forecasts his own death. I have a journey, sir, shortly to go; My master calls me, I must not say no. (Act V Scene 3). Edgar does not refuse Albany’s offer of power and titles, which will justly reward him for his goodness and loyalty.
The play ends with King Lear dying in emotional torment knowing that his one good daughter has perished. After some uncertainty, he accepts her death as real. To add his pain, it has all been due to the chain of events set off by his egotistical decision to divide his rule among his three daughters based on their “love” for him. The decent characters of Kent and Edgar watch Lear’s death. Kent knows that he will die soon himself so he makes no plans for the future. Meanwhile, “Poor Tom” is about to be rewarded for his devotion and loyalty by becoming “Rich Edgar”. King Lear deserves no sympathy. Lear’s feelings of guilt do not redeem him from his responsibility of causing the tragedies that unfolded. His selfish acts brought about the tragedies that unfolded. The real tragedy in King Lear is not the death of the King but the death of the devoted Cordelia who ended up as a sacrifice to Lear’s vanity.
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