Seeing Clearly in King Lear
King Lear of Britain, the protagonist in Shakespeare's tragic play of the same name undergoes radical change as a man, father and king as he is forced to bear the repercussions of his actions. Lear is initially portrayed as being an egotistical ruler, relying on protestations of love from his daughters to apportion his kingdom. Lear's tragic flaw is the division of his kingdom and his inability to see the true natures of people because of his pride while his scathing anger is also shown to override his judgment. He wrongfully disowns his youngest and most truthful daughter Cordelia, preferring his elder daughters, Regan and Goneril, because of an eagerness to be flattered, and they ironically turn out to be evil. He displays inadequacies as a father through lack of knowledge concerning the true characters of all his daughters, and as King through the sudden dividing of his land. Lear loses his sanity when he cannot cope with the insensitive treatment from his two elder daughters. His madness is a learning experience, as he realizes his earlier mistakes in the play, including his mistreatment of Cordelia. When he does regain sanity, he is a much wiser and enhanced man, father and king.
Kent, one of Lear's followers, is the first person to directly tell the King that he has made mistakes concerning the partition of his sovereignty. Unlike Lear who shows blindness in judgment and lack of paternal knowledge of his daughters, Kent is able to see through the superficiality of the elder daughters' confessions of love. He believes that Cordelia is wronged when she receives nothing and is exiled, and condemns the King for his actions "When majesty stoops to folly. Reverse thy doom". Kent believes the King is blind of the consequences of his decisions, voicing "See better, Lear". Lear displays intense outrage at Kent, "Come not between the dragon and his wrath", and later says "The bow is bent and drawn; make from the shaft", indicating he does not want his authority to be challenged. Kent is shown to be faithful to Lear by confronting him about his sins, and like Cordelia is banished because of his honesty.
The Fool in the play serves as Lear's conscience and social commentator, conveying his poignant messages to the King in cryptic riddles. He says "give me an egg, nuncle, and I'll give thee two crowns", and "thou hadst little wit in thy bald crown when thou gavest thy golden one away", commenting on Lear's lack of judgment in dividing his land. Throughout the play, the Fool observes the disorder that Lear has not only caused to himself but also his entire kingdom while constant references made by him sarcastically indicate the King's foolishness. The Fool says, "she will taste as like this as a crab does to a crab", telling Lear that Regan's nature will be no different than Goneril's. The Fool is partially comparable to Cordelia, in that he is a truth-teller like her and is firmly obedient...