Biblical Imagery in Lear
Had King Lear been exposed to Christian Scriptures, he may have learned the folly of his prideful demand that his daughters vocally profess their love. The Scriptures clearly state that "if any tried to by love with their wealth, contempt is all they would get." (Sg 8:7) Of course, had King Lear read and abided by the Scriptures, we would be wanting of a great work of literature.
Lear's situation closely fits the passage from the Song of Songs. In applying the passage to his story, we must analyze the argument presented in the passage. We see that the argument follows the Modus Ponens form, containing a premise and a conclusion that logically follows. The argument is valid due to its form. However, we must determine the truth of the premise and conclusion in order to determine whether the statement applies to Lear.
First, let us consider the premise: "if any tried to buy love with their wealth." Lear poses this question to his three daughters:
Which of you shall we say doth love us most
That we may our largest bounty extend
Where nature doth with merit challenge. (I,i, 56-58)
This question clearly links the profession of love, which Lear naively supposes to indicate actual love, with the reception of the "several dowers." (I,i, 47) This is further borne out in Lear's rash disinheritance of loyal, but silent, Cordelia. Lear continues to connect love with property as he warns Cordelia "nothing will come of nothing." (I,i, 99) When she persists in her speech, he further cautions her to "mend your speech a little / lest you may mar your fortunes." (I,i, 103-14) Lear's speech and behavior certainly match the premise expressed in the passage.
Having shown that the premise is true in Lear's situation, we must ascertain whether or not the conclusion is true. Our argument states that if the premise is true, then "contempt is all they would get." (Sg 8:7) We see as evidence of contempt towards Lear in the fourfold rejection of the King. First, he is rejected by Goneril, with whom he is staying. She complains about the inconvenience caused by the reveling of Lear's knights and declares "I'll not endure it." (I,iii, 6) Lear is next rejected by Regan, who departs from her castle to Gloucester's castle rather than receive Lear at home. Regan urges Lear to repent of his indignation and "return you to my sister." (II,iv, 178) Lear, enraged, decides to "abjure all roofs" and spend the night in the storm. (II,iv, 241) Regan then orders the gates barred against his return. The storm represents nature's rejection of Lear. The winds have no respect for Lear's kingship. Nature gives Lear...