9 April 2012
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.