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The Consequences Of Choosing An Heir

1354 words - 5 pages

William Shakespeare uses his play, King Lear, to explore the consequences of a monarch making a poor political decision in choosing their heir. The recent events within England associated with the passing of Queen Elizabeth I and the uncertain future the kingdom faced with their new ruler, King James I, can be compared and contrasted with the choosing of an heir within King Lear and the outcomes each situation. King Lear is meant to display the drastic negative consequences of such an important decision that weaken a kingdom while the real world situation turned out to be not nearly as morbid and displayed how a wise ruling choice could strengthen multiple kingdoms.
King Lear was written in 1604, one year after the death of Queen Elizabeth I of England and Ireland. Despite the turmoil brought to the kingdom by her father and elder half-sister in their reigns through their religious persecutions of Protestants and Catholics respectively, Elizabeth was a steady and strategic monarch who led England through many years of peace. Most amazingly, she led England through this peace alone with no man at her side. To Elizabeth relationships with the male population seemed to be more political tools used to create alliances than prospects for marriage. As a result of her views Elizabeth was never wed and never gave birth to any children. When she died she had no heir to pass the kingdom on to, which was a very worrisome idea for her subjects. Traditionally the throne would be passed down from each monarch to their firstborn son, and only to daughters when no sons were left, but Elizabeth had no family whatsoever to naturally succeed her. The only thing that was certain before an heir was announced was that the throne would be leaving her family to a completely new bloodline and no ordinary citizen had any idea of whose bloodline that may be. Knowing that the heir would likely be someone unfamiliar was little reassurance to the average citizen. No clear heir left her kingdom with a very uncertain future and vulnerable to attack and invasion from other monarchs. It was only in Elizabeth’s final year of life that she named James VI of Scotland as her successor, giving security to her kingdom and connecting England, Ireland, and Scotland through his rule.
In King Lear, Lear faces a similar decision as Queen Elizabeth, choosing a proper heir to give his kingdom the brightest future. Lear has the opposite problem of Elizabeth in that he has an excess of heirs to choose from, three to be exact. He is not required by law to give his throne to his eldest or any single one of his daughters and believes, in fact, that it would be unwise of him to do so when he could instead divide his land amongst them and create political alliances through his eldest daughters’ marriages. Lear believes that such relationships will keep his kingdom strong even after he steps down and relinquishes his throne. He does have a plan to provide his youngest daughter, Cordelia, with the...

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