A Bit of Foreshadowing in King Lear

As we see with many Shakespearean plays, the actions starts almost immediately in King Lear. We’ve visited parent and child relationships before in several of our other plays from this semester, and King Lear certainly does not mimic anything we’ve visited previously. The harsh and hot tempered King Lear immediately disowns and disinherits his youngest daughter, simply because she will not grovel at his feet in the fashion of her sisters. The devotion he once had for his daughter is dropped immediately after this exchange, leading me to believe that the King is not the deepest of thinkers. His rash reaction leads me to wonder this: is the rash treatment of Cordelia going to foreshadow the fate of the King? Now, I don’t think that the King is simple minded. We saw that Hotspur from King Henry IV was a very intelligent war strategist, receiving at one point praise from the King. Eventually, his hot temper ended up being part of his downfall. I see a similar fate in Lear’s future.       
        In examining the scene, we see Lear’s two older daughters Regan and Goneril making speeches about how much they love their father. After Goneril’s sickeningly glowing speech, Regan gives one in a similar vein. Hers of course claims that her sister’s words “comes too short”(1.1.64)in her description of her own love and loyalty. These two attempts are–to an outsider–a fairly obviously ploy to get the best plot of land. Of course, Lear is not using common sense when he listens to his daughter’s claims. Although the women honestly seem to be manipulating him to gain more land, the flattery behind their words blinds Lear and causes his irrational anger for Cordelia to blow up further than it may have.
    Although Cordelia could have gone along with her sister’s tactics, she realizes that the love that she has for her father cannot be expressed merely in words: “I am sure my love’s/more richer than my tongue” (1.1.69-70). Cordelia acknowledges that the love she has for her father is too powerful and ineffable to express simply in words. She can deduce that she loves him only in the way a daughter should, yet this wording is not enough for Lear.
    Cordelia manages to cunningly call out her sisters as she conversed with the King. She made the accurate point that if the sisters loves Lear as much as they claimed, the pair of them would have not been married off. Truthfully, Cordelia is the only one of the three that has stayed with her father, partially due to her love and devotion for him. I can just picture the severe stares that her sisters must have been giving her at this time; I’m sure that they at least understood the digs. Cordelia understands that eventually she will have to be married away from her father, and that means being able to love another man and make way for him in her heart. Lear only seems to hear that he is not the number one thing on her mind, and uses her words against her.
    Because of his rash reaction to Cordelia’s words, the King gave his once favorite daughter a sentence that really did not fit the crime. I could never imagine my father saying that because I don’t love just him, I no longer have any rights as his child. It seems to me that Lear is letting his ego get in the way of rational judgement. If anything, Cordelia seems to be the most level headed and rational of the family. I suppose I’ll have to wait for the rest of the play to find out Lear’s family’s fate.

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One thought on “A Bit of Foreshadowing in King Lear

  1. patricia

    King Lear’s actions give me the impression that he was a insecure man. Not only did he need the constant validation from his daughters of their love, but also wanting to keep his title as king in name only. If he was a confident individual knowing he had three daughters who cared for him would be enough. What is the point of keeping his title in name only, and a group of 100 knights? This to me is his way of symbolizing his importance. I believe that the two daughters were fed-up with his neediness and that is what had driven them to call him “My lady’s Father.” It took courage for Cordilia to be honest with her father, and unfortunately King Lear had to learn the hard way that honesty outweighs flattery. I do believe he got what he deserved because any father who can dismiss their daughter the way he did is a fool.

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