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Loyalty In "King Lear" Essay

1139 words - 5 pages

Loyalty is being faithful to commitments and obligations. On the other hand there are many ways to display loyalty. One can be loyal to a person, political party, country, religion, or cause. The list is seemingly endless. William Shakespeare’s play King Lear exhibits many forms of loyalty, but one that shines particularly is loyalty to ones selfish needs. However there is a limit to loyalty which most over look. The characters Cordelia, the emotional King Lear, and the vile Edmund all manifest their loyalty to their own self, and all meet their demise. The limit to loyalty is death.

Often said to be the exemplification of an angel on earth, Cordelia’s character is won over by so many readers’ hearts. However there is a side to Cordelia which is detestable and overtly selfish. Cordelia is dubbed as the most loyal to Lear throughout the entire play. Only this is not the case, her loyalties in fact do not lie with King Lear but to her own moralistic views. She displays these views right form the beginning of the play when she openly refused to shower her father with loving words. “ Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave/ My heart into my mouth. I love your Majesty/ According to my bond, no more nor less.” (1.1.96-98). This is really quite pathetic, as a person who has always shown her love to her father, she choose this day to embarrass, and refuse him what he considered his greatest joy and honor. What father would not want his daughters to praise him to high heavens? Especially when one, is as old as Lear. The great scholar Euripides said “To a father growing old nothing is dearer than a daughter”. It was at this moment of time that she should have exhibited her loyalty even if his demands went against her own

morals. Isn’t her father more dear to her, than her own selfishness?. Lear clearly angered by all this takes a rash action by banishing and disowning Cordelia. But all actions have a consequence and unfortunately the actions taken not only cost her banishment by the one person she loves, but also the death of both her and her father King Lear.

King Lear an imprudent, old man symbolizes selfishness like no other. What is most daunting is the fact that he is adamantly loyal to appearances and ranking in life. He carries a title which most can not even dream of attaining, but wants to give up the position and all the responsibilities that follow it. “ Know that we have divided/ In three our kingdom, and `tis our fast intent/ To shake all cares and business from our age” (1.1.37-39). It is quite understandable if he just wanted to end his reign as king, but it’s another thing when he also wants to bask in the glory of the title and be treated like he still owns it. This egotistical attitude of his is more annoying than anything else, for he brought forth all his problems upon himself, and also unto others. His most arrogant moment is at the very beginning of the play, when he demands his daughters to profess their love for him...

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