Loyalty

Sam Montagna
Professor Mulready
Shakespeare II
9 April 2012
Loyalty
It is very clear from Act I where everyone’s loyalty lies. Unfortunately, King Lear is listening to the wrong people. Lear decides to divide up his kingdom based on how much his daughters claim how much they love him. Well, any ambitious leader will say whatever it takes to get what they want. Goneril and Reagan both declare that they love their father more than anything. Cordelia says she only loves him as much as duty requires. Lear does not give Cordelia anything and the rest goes to his other two daughters, who treat him terribly after the land is given and conspire to get rid of him. Lear has nobody to blame but himself. He is the King and is supposed to be strong and be able to protect his kingdom. By allowing his kingdom to be given away solely based on declarations of love, he is, in fact, disloyal to his own kingdom. He is leaving the kingdom with an uncertain future. 
Lear does not even seem to pay attention to the people that are loyal to him. They are the ones who tell the truth, which is what a King needs to rely on. Kent goes out of his way to try to get the King to listen. The fool constantly tells the King how it is. He does not hold anything back. A strong king is supposed to be able to weed out traitors. Instead, Lear is listening to the traitors. As soon as his daughters’ attitude change towards him, Lear should have realized where he went wrong. The fool tells Lear that Lear is the fool for giving up his power “Nor I neither; but I can tell why a snail has a house./ Why?/ Why, to put ‘s head in, not to give it away to his daughters and leave is horns without a case.” (2375.25-28). Lear has left himself vulnerable and at the mercy of his not-so-loving daughters. 
However, it can be said that Lear is not in his right mind. Goneril recognizes that he is not the King he used to be. “I would you would make use of your good wisdom/ Whereof I know you are fraught, and put away/ these dispositions which of late transport you/ from what you rightly are” (2369.185-188). The king is acting differently than he normally would. He is acting crazy, foolish and un-king-like. So, is Lear too far gone to help himself? Will he let the wrong people walk all over him even when the right people are pointing out what needs to be done? The play is a tragedy. It is fairly obvious that Lear will not have a happy ending. Lear is a failing King because he decides to give in to his insecurities and rely on superficial words instead of the advice of his loyal friends.
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2 thoughts on “Loyalty

  1. ~Ariel~

    I totally agree with your assessment that Lear is listening to all the wrong people. Goneril and Regan are quick to capitalize on their father’s diminishing mind. I was so caught up in the action and emotions of the daughters and how Lear handles them that I didn’t considered the bigger picture. You’re right; Lear has left his kingdom in very questionable hands. If Goneril and Regan can take advantage of their own father, than how will the run the kingdom? They prove that there are not honest or have any loyalty except to their own ambitions and maybe their husbands, but I think that if given the opportunity or the need they would sell them out too. I think it’s interesting that the Fool seems to be the smartest one in this play. He does tell the king the truth, just like Cordelia tried to do. The fact the Lear doesn’t dismiss the Fool shows how much his mind is slipping. Why would he allow a servant to talk to him that way but not listen to his own daughter? This question comes up again when Kent comes back to the king disguised as Caius. Shouldn’t the king recognize his man? Shakespeare is sprinkling these little details in to illustrate Lear’s slow descent into madness.

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  2. Cyrus Mulready

    I agree that Lear is foolish to yoke the future of his kingdom to Goneril and Regan, and there is good evidence from the start of this. Why does he do it, though? Sam makes a case here that he has grown senile, and there is good reason for that interpretation. Lear, too, like Gloucester, seems to be easily manipulated by his children based on his own anxieties. How much blame, in other words, should we place with Lear, and how much do his daughters deserve?

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