In our world, there are people like the woman who yells at her children and disciplines them with physical punishment, but also the boy who talks to the student that always sits alone at the lunch table and is socially different than others. Some people may lead a life based upon universally established morals, while others tend to let out a side of their being that is more beastly than human. Humans have the ability to make choices based on reason, while the animals of the earth have only the capacity to choose the best option for their own survival. Human reasoning, both gracious and grave is witnessed in the words of William Shakespeare’s play, The Tragedy of King Lear. Through both provocative and seemingly angelic characters, Shakespeare communicates to the audience that humans are born with the capacity to emerge from their simple selfish instincts based on survival and grow in both moral and social conduct. A pattern of references to ‘nothing’, to foolishness versus wisdom, and to animal imagery explore this message along with the characters exhibiting virtue or debauchery.
Unaccomadation to most is the idea of the absence of physical possession, but throughout the play, its true meaning can be interpreted as the void of strong benevolence in character and a more savage personality. King Lear demonstrates his ignorance to what the concept of nothing is when twice he mentions that nothing will come of nothing in terms of a person’s wealth and status. Subsequently, Lear learns through testing situations that his growth of substance does not come from selfish indulgences like keeping the company of one hundred knights, but from the honour and faith
that he manifests through his actions. Pertaining to substance, Lear describes Cordelia to Burgundy
as little in substance and based solely on what she possesses as a result of her lack of praise for Lear. Belief in the expression of love through action and not flattery or wealth identifies Cordelia as greater than the acquisitive and inconsiderate Lear who proves his deficiency of a moral conscience and that he has room to deepen his understanding of human worth. A more literal form of nakedness is taken on by Edgar as he lives the seemingly degrading life of a beggar. At his worst, he declares, “Thou unsubstantial air that I embrace!/ The wretch that thou hast blown unto the worst/ Owes nothing to thy blasts.” (Shakespeare IV. I. 7-9), and realizes that for hope of a more righteous future, sometimes people must be stripped down to the core and be at their worst in order to eliminate deep-rooted habits. This interpretation of Shakespeare’s references to “nothing” suggests the importance of removing the essentially meaningless aspects of life that hold back the integral traits of humanity, and reveal the treacherous corruption that all humans are capable of.
Likewise, the labels of foolishness and wisdom that are placed on characters are a false recognition of identity because of the...