Essay, Research Paper: King Lear

Shakespeare: King Lear

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The play of "King Lear" is about a person in search of their own
personal identity. In the historical period in which this play is set, the
social structure was set in order of things closest to Heaven. Therefore, on
Earth, the king was at the top, followed by his noblemen and going all the way
down to the basest of objects such as rocks and dirt. This structure was set up
by the people, and by going by the premise that anything that is man made is
imperfect, this system cannot exist for long without conflict. Through tattered
clothes small vices do appear; Robes and furred gowns hide all. Plate sin with
gold, And the strong lance of justice hurtles breaks; (IV, vi). The chaos that
occurs in "King Lear" is due the reshaping of bonds within the
society. Thus naturally, bonds must be broken, kept and most importantly,
formed. This rearrangement of bonds is necessary to Lear understanding his
personal identity. Bonds that are broken include those relations between King
Lear and his two eldest daughters (Regan and Goneril), between Glouster and
Edmund and also between Edmund and Edgar. Lear and Cordelia; Lear and Kent;
Glouster and Edgar include those bonds that are existent at both the beginning
and conclusion of the play. By the ending of the play, Lear is able to come to
terms with himself and with nature. For the rearrangement of the bonds, it is
necessary that those based on money, power, land, and deception be to abandoned.
In the case of Lear and Goneril and Regan, his two daughters have deceived their
father for their personal gain. Furthermore, they had not intended to keep the
bond with their father once they had what they wanted. Goneril states "We
must do something, and i' th' heat." (I, i, 355), meaning that they wish to
take more power upon themselves while they can. By his two of his daughters
betraying him, Lear was able to gain insight that he is not as respected as he
perceives himself to be. The relationship broken between Edmund his half-
bother, Edgar and father, Glouster is similarly deteriorated in the interest of
material items. By the end of the play, Edgar has recognized who is brother
really is and when he has confronted him says "the more th' hast wronged
me... The dark and vicious place where thee he got/ Cost him his eyes." (V,
iii, 203- 207). Since these bonds were all based on material items, they were
not genuine therefore could not hold in the rearrangement of bonds. Throughout
the play some bonds remain true. Lear at first disowns Cordelia because he does
not get the flattery from her that he wishes to hear. However, through much
torment after he is reduced to nothing, Lear realizes that he cannot always get
what he wants just because he is king. Upon such sacrifices, my Cordelia, The
gods themselves throw incense. Have I caught thee? He that parts us shall bring
a brand from heaven And fire us hence like foxes. Wipe thine eyes. (V, iii, 22-
26) Tough the two were not in communication through the majority of the play,
they still had love for each other and by the end of the play, their bond is
reformed. The breaking and reforming of Lear and Cordelia's bond is similar to
that of Lear and Kent's bond. Throughout the play their bond remains true, only
Lear is not aware of it. Even after Lear has passed away, Kent states, "I
have a journey, sir, shortly to go/ My master calls me; I must not say no."
(V, iii, 390- 391), thus proving that even in Lear's death he remains loyal. The
bonds that are present at both the beginning and ending of the play have the
consistent elements of loyalty and love. Through the reforming of relationships
Lear gains insight which allows him to come to terms with himself and nature.
Throughout the play Lear experiences much torment and punishment from nature,
for unnaturally giving up his power: Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! Rage,
blow! You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout Till you have drenched our steeples,
(drowned) the cocks. Your sulph' rous and thought- executing fires, Vaunt-
couriers of oak- cleaving thunderbolts, Singe my white head. And thou, all-
shaking Thunder (III, ii, 1-8). Lear has difficulties accepting his fate he
believes he is "More sinned against than sinning" (III, ii, 62-63). It
is not until he accepts his fate and comes to terms will himself that he is at
peace. By the end of the play Lear is humbled and just happy that he has the
love of Cordelia. The reshaping of bonds within Lear's Kingdom was necessary for
Lear coming to terms with himself. Throughout the play those relationships that
were based on deception and material goods were broken while those bonds based
on loyalty and love were present at the beginning and at the end of the play.
Most importantly Lear is able to build a bond with nature which allows him to
come to terms with himself. At the conclusion of the play the lesson has been
learned, "Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say" (V, iii, 392)
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