Confrontations Between Young And Old In Shakespeare's King Lear

1901 words - 8 pages

Confrontations Between Young and Old in King Lear


    One of the underlying themes in Shakespeare's play, King Lear is

the concept of the generation gap.  This gap is mainly illustrated between

the family.  The older generation is Lear himself, and the younger

generation consists of his daughters Goneril, Regan and Cordelia.  In the

second plot of the play, Gloucester represents the older generation, and

his sons, Edmund and Edgar exemplifies the younger generation.  Both

younger generations can be divided into two distinct groups.  Goneril,

Regan and Edmund are the villains in both the plots and Edgar and Cordelia

are the loyal, faithful children.  This little twist adds to the effect of

the generation gap in the play.  There are many comparisons that can be

made and confrontations that occur between the generations.  These events

contribute to the themes of authority, power and loyalty, judgment and

wisdom.  Overall, it emphasizes the general themes of the generation gap.


        Symbolism contributes to the themes authority and power in King

Lear.  These symbols are represented by material things.  For example, in

[Act 1 scene 1] when Lear is dividing up his land, power and authority to

his three daughters, depending on how much they can verbally express their

love for him.  [Lines 52-53]  "Which of you shall say doth love us most?

That we our largest bounty may extend where nature doth with merit

challenge."  The land that each daughter received is the extent of their

authority and of their power in the Kingdom.  For example, the Duke of

Burgundy did not wish to marry Cordelia after he found out she was getting

nothing from her father.  He was marrying her for power and authority.


        Goneril's servants show disrespect toward Lear which shows that

Lear's authority and power over them has diminished.  An example of this is

Oswald's attitude towards Lear after his daughter, Goneril told him to show

discourtesy towards Lear.  [Act 1 scene 4, Lines 75-80]  "O, you, sir, you!

Come you hither, sir.  Who am I, sir?  My Lady's Father.  "My Lady's

Father"?  My lords knave!  You Whoreson dog!  You Slave!  You Cur!"


        Another example of lost authority and power in this act is when

Lear's Fool offers Lear his Coxcomb (Jester's Cap)  and tells him how

foolish he was when he gave up his power to Goneril and Regan.


        Lear's 100 Knights symbolize Lear's power in his mind.  When Lear

is confronted by his daughter Goneril and is told by her that his men are

too disruptive and are to be trimmed to half because she feels he does not

need them.  Lear is angered at Goneril for this because the Knights

represents the remainder of his limited power.  Regan then tells him in

order to stay with her, he had to dismiss all but 25 knights because he...

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