Long Lost Love

The biggest flaw in King Lear is flattery being confused with real love. After King Lear hears his first two daughters buttering him up with confessions of love, “Sir, I love you more than words can wield the matter; Dearer than eyesight, space, and liberty; Beyond what can be valued, rich or rare..(1.1.53-54) he is bursting with confidence. This does not last long because he does not approve of Cordelia’s reaction saying she cannot “heave her heart into her mouth,’ that she loves him exactly as much as a daughter should love their father..” (1.1.90-91) in his opinion it is not worthy enough and banishes her. As if banishing her was not enough, King Lear tells Cordelia’s prospective husband to leave her, “I tell you all her wealth.” This was surprising to me because leading up to the division of his wealth he considered Cordelia his favorite daughter. The blindness the king demonstrates in this situation is due to the lack of intuition and wisdom. He was unable to observe, interpret and decipher the situation his two older daughters laid out before him.

Shortly after being in control of their father’s wealth Goneril and Regan begin disrespecting their father. “As you are old and reverend, you should be wise.” Here old is meant to be negative. Goneril speaks down to her father with connotations of him being weaker than her in statements like “I do beseech you (1.4.18)” The biggest sign of disrespect comes when Oswald calls King Lear “My Lady’s Father,(1.4.67) This line strips the King of his title and makes him nothing more than a father. King Lear was warned not only once but twice that he was making a mistake giving over all his power and banishing his youngest daughter. Both Kent and the Fool tried showing King Lear the mistakes he was making. Does King Lear deserve sympathy from the readers?” My answer is “NO!!” After all a King should know a thing or two about flattery. Even still, he turned his back on his only daughter who was loyal to him, for simply not confessing her love to his liking, as if their relationship leading up to this meant so little. This reminds me of the saying actions speak louder than words. I guess you could say that the wisdom lies with the fool and the foolishness lies with the king.

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4 thoughts on “Long Lost Love

  1. burnettd1

    I agree with you that King Lear does not deserve sympathy from the readers. King Lear had many opportunities to change his fate, but instead he was blinded by the flattery that his daughters, Goneril and Regan, has expressed towards him. By banishing the one daughter that genuinely cared about him, he caused his fate to end in a tragedy.

    Also, I loved the line in your post that stated, “I guess you could say that the wisdom lies with the fool and the foolishness lies with the king.” This really summarizes how the characters in the play behave. It also demonstrates an aspect of irony, which is expressed by the fool and King Lear’s actions.

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  2. zacharyschiff

    I think you ask a really important question: does Lear deserve our sympathy? In class we discussed the possibility that Cordelia was unnecessarily harsh in not playing his “game” for the sake of the truth. I personally side with Cordelia, and against Lear in act 1. In telling him the truth (not a harsh truth after all, just an unadorned one), she did him much pain the present, but in the long term probably helped him: Cordelia ends up being Lear’s only truly loving daughter.

    You also bring up the interesting question of why Lear was so blind as to mistake fancy language with real love. Does he merely lack intuition and wisdom? Does he lack self-knowledge in his hasty dispossession of his lands, a choice he’ll soon regret? Sometimes I think Lear is kind of senile, but I’m not sure we’re supposed to see him that way. Nevertheless, I wonder if it is possible to pity this poor old man, who is so harried and unhappy that he declares, gloriously, as thunder starts to break in the sky above him,

    I have full cause of weeping but this heart
    Shall break into a hundred thousand flaws
    Or ere I’ll weep. O, Fool, I shall go mad! (2.4.279-281)

    He may have provided the impetus for his own ruination, in banishing Cordelia and giving power to his wicked daughters, but I wonder if that should prevent us from ever pitying him.

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  3. Michelle D.

    It’s not hard to agree with the responses posted here because King Lear doesn’t deserve our sympathy. The role of a father should influence, in a way, the role of king. Having love and compassion for his daughters should radiate towards his kingdom as well. But he has neither for either his daughters or his kingdom. I say this because to love one’s ego more than kin speaks volumes about a person and their character. Lear’s desires are materialistic, just as they were in his kingship, therefore it seems fit that karma get back at him through his terrible eldest daughters. He lost the true good hearted child he had but his determination to believe he made no mistake and has done no wrong simply leads him more towards his karmic punishment. There is no need to pity this remnant of a man; besides, he feels bad enough for himself that he can just throw some confetti and keep having his little pity party on his own.

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  4. Courtney Kiesecker

    As the other comments decree, I also believe that King Lear does not deserve any sort of sympathy from the readers of the play. His character from the very beginning idolizes appearances of himself as remaining a king through honor, authority, and demeanor while completely stripping himself of the duties and troublesome acts that are associated with being a king, as well as the appearance of love through flattery that he has his two older daughters evoke rather than trust in the true love that his youngest daughter simply emits. The fact that Lear is completely blind from the truth of his actions and his intentions disregard any sympathy that I could have for him as a character.

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