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Foolear A Fool For A King In William Shakespeare's King Lear

1116 words - 4 pages

A Fool for a King in King Lear 

   In Shakespeare's play King Lear, the main character, King Lear, is presented as a respected and powerful king. As the story progresses the king loses his power because of his own stupidity and blindness. The tragedy of this play is shown chiefly through the actions of Lear’s daughters, which lead to Lear’s bout with insanity, and through the words of the Fool.

At the beginning of the play, King Lear appears as a powerful and well-loved ruler. He explains his intention to abdicate and divide his kingdom among his three daughters, giving the largest segment to the daughter who convinces him that she loves him most (Boyce 343).  Goneril is the first to lie,            

Sir, I love you more than word can wield the matter; / Dearer than eyesight, space, and liberty;

            Beyond what can be valued, rich or rare; / No less than life, with grace, health, beauty, honor;

            As much as child e’er loved, or father found; A love that makes breath poor, and speech unable.

            Beyond all manner of so much I love you. (I.i.56-63)

Regan is the next to exaggerate her love,

                        I am made / Of that same metal as my sister

                        And prize me at her worth. In my true heart / I find she names my very deed of love,

                        Only she comes too short, that I profess / Myself an enemy to all other joys

                        Which the most precious square of sense possesses, / And find I am alone felicitate

                        In your dear Highness’ love. (I.i.72-80)

Finally, Cordelia speaks only the truth when she says, “ Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave / My heart into my mouth. I love your Majesty / According to my bond, no more, no less” (I.i.96-98).  She says she loves her father as her father and that, when she marries, she will also love her husband.  The king is very upset by Cordelia whom he loved best of all his daughters.  Tragically, Cordelia, who truly loves her father, is disinherited, and the kingdom is divided between her two greedy sisters.

Giving the land to Goneril and Regan is the first of Lear's mistakes, for the selfish daughters do not love him as much as Cordelia does, but merely wish to have his riches.  Goneril and Regan decide to control their elderly father so he won’t eventually caste them off as he did Cordelia.  They begin to speak disrespectfully of him, referring to him publicly as the “Idle old man” (I.iii.17).  They take steps to ensure that Lear lose any power that he still retains, the first step being to diminish the ranks of his followers:  “What, fifty of my followers at a clap” (I.iv.300)? Lear had proposed to his daughters that he and one hundred knights would live for one month at a time with each daughter.  When Goneril breaks the bargain, Lear laments, “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is / To have a thankless child” (I.iv.280-281).  He then...

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