Universal Truth in King Lear
The warm, comforting sun has broken through the clouds, melting the ice that chokes the ground and bathing the world in its healing light. Likewise, King Lear has finally rid himself of his emotional shrouds and melted the ice that covers his heart. In Act 5, scene 3 lines 9-20, Lear explains how he and Cordelia will spend their time while imprisoned by Edmund - not burning with vitriolic hatred, but enveloped in an almost joyous sense of calm. He and his daughter will "sing like birds i' the cage" (5.3.10).
This passage reflects Lear's resting point in the great journey of the play. First he was constrained by foolish pride, then overtaken with insanity. After emerging from this period of mental illness, he was consumed by a desire to end his stay upon the "wheel of fire" (4.7.53) by suicide. But through his trials and travails he has now realized what he is: not a King, but a father; not a fool, but a "foolish fond old man" (4.7.69). He is Lear - no more, no less. His gentle dialogue to his trespassed daughter shows that his trappings of royalty and sanity have been stripped away to reveal fatherly love. In essence, this speech shows Lear is human.
As a reader, I was stricken by the surprising affection Lear gives to his daughter in this passage. A man who compared his favorite offspring to a "barbarous Scythian" (1.1.128-129) at the beginning of the play now cracks his hardened heart for the world (and the reader) to see, emphasizing his transition from an object of hate to an object of pity. Rather than revile the former monarch as a heartless fiend, as I did at the...