The Selfish King Lear Essay Research Paper

The Selfish King Lear Essay, Research Paper

Matt Erde


Period 6

The Selfish King Lear

In Shakespeare’s King Lear a king is stripped of his land, wealth, soldiers, and all of his power because he is stubborn, egocentric, and unkind. Other than losing money and power he loses his three daughters as well. Lear’s pride is so overwhelming that he is unwilling to allow anyone to contradict him. If anyone (besides his fool) even remotely hints that his actions were wrong he gets unnecessarily enraged. King Lear acts very harshly to his daughters and should receive the appropriate punishment. Although King Lear completely deserves what he gets and has put his youngest daughter through so much torture, he is not entirely awful. He is a respectable king who people look up to.

When Kent informs Lear of his drastic mistake Lear’s pride takes control of him and he banishes his loyal friend, Kent. Kent is almost like a brother to Lear. He is Lear’s most trusty friend and basically the king’s right hand man. Because Lear is so arrogant and proud, he will not accept any disagreement from anyone. Kent explains to Lear that he has made a mistake in banishing Cordelia and Lear explodes with fury at Kent. This is the response Kent receives in return for correcting the king. “To come betwixt our sentence and our power, which nor our nature nor our place can bear, our potency made good, take thy reward: …turn thy hated back upon our kingdom. If …thy banished trunk be found in our dominions, the moment is thy death.” (I.1.194-202). King Lear is saying that Kent is now a traitor, and since he points out a mistake in the king’s judgment he should be banished. If Kent shows his body in Lear’s kingdom once again he will be killed immediately.

Lear has made several rash decisions regarding dividing the land between his daughters, and must live with his mistakes. After not passing on any land to his most beloved daughter, Cordelia, he heartlessly banishes her, then curses her to not be capable of creating children. “Into her womb convey sterility. Dry up in her the organs of increase, and from her derogate body never spring a babe to honor her. If she must teem, create her a child of spleen…” (I.4.292-296). Lear pronounces his hatred for his daughter in this, and many other instances. “You nimble lightnings, dart your blinding flames into her scornful eyes! Infect her beauty, you fen sucked fogs drawn by the powerful sun to fall and blister.” (II.2.4.187-190). The king wishes vapors to be drawn up from marshes by the sun to fall on and blister Regan. He also wants lightning to shoot her eyes, making her blind. Undoubtedly, Lear shows his disgust for his second oldest daughter and overreacts when she demands he not take one hundred knights.

King Lear is not a completely terrible person. He is honorable and a respected head of a nation. The other evils at work in the story are King Lear’s two oldest daughters. They behave ruthlessly toward their father and are selfish not unlike their father. Few characters in the play become aware of how terribly the two treat Lear. The first person to notices the betrayal of the sisters is Cordelia. Goneril and Regan have no regrets about lying to the king about their love for him. When Cordelia refuses to lie to her father, like her sisters, she is banished. “Why have my sisters husbands if they love you all? … Sure I shall never marry like my sisters to love my father all.” (I.1.109-115). Cordelia is asking why her sisters have married if they truly love her father. She says that she will never get married like her sisters so that she can be faithful to and care for her father. Her sisters are not faithful and do not love Lear. Another person who realizes the evil of Goneril is Albany. He sees how Goneril treats the king and gets into a ruthless argument. “O Goneril, You are not worth the dust which the rude wind blows in your face. I fear your disposition. That nature which contemns its origin cannot be bordered certain in itself. She that herself will sliver and disbranch from her material sap perforce must wither and come to deadly use.” (IV.2.38-45). Albany tells Goneril that she is so worthless she does not deserve the wind that blows on her face. He says that her nature is to despise her father and therefore has no reliable boundaries and is untrustworthy. He states that she has torn herself away from Lear as if she were a branch tearing itself away from the tree that sustains it. He says that in doing this will lead to the destruction of herself and of others around her.

When King Lear banishes his most dearly loved daughter Cordelia he behaves drastically and rashly. He banishes Cordelia because she refuses to lie to him as her sisters did by telling him how much they loved him. When he wishes horrendous things to happen to Regan it is simply because she said something that he did not agree with. The king’s pride overwhelms him so much that he cannot and will not accept any difference of opinion with his decisions. When Kent reveals that banishing Cordelia was an unwise decision Lear exiles Kent, his most trusted friend. There are many terrible deeds that Lear commits, but also has several unpleasant ones committed on him by his daughters. Even though there are horrible things done to king Lear, the terrible things that Lear do outweighs them. Lear deserves his punishment, should live up to his mistakes, and do whatever he can to correct those mistakes.