Revelation, Compassion, and Forgiveness.

After I read the first two acts, I felt a strong distaste in King Lear. He is extremely cruel, lazy, misogynistic, and superficial; all which are qualities that are not expected of a king. I felt that it would be difficult to find any sense of pity for him. However, similarly to the Henry tetralogy, as the play moves on, the decision of feeling empathy or forgiving Henry gets more and more ambiguous. Sometimes in order to see how unjust one is being, he or she needs to step outside their comfort zone and step into someone else’s shoes in order to accurately analyze what they are doing. That seems to be the case with King Lear.
Firstly, as King Lear runs around in his birthday suit in a violent storm, he has a revelation regarding the homeless:
Poor naked wretches, whereso’er you are,
That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm,
How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides,
Your loop’d and window’d raggedness, defend you
From seasons such as these? O, I have ta’en
Too little care of this! Take physic, pomp;
Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel,
That thou mayst shake the superflux to them,
And show the heavens more just (3.2.65-71)
King Lear has not given much though to the homeless, let alone empathetic enough to help fix the problem or mediate the problem. For Lear to feel compassion for the homeless, essentially, he became one, a “poor naked wretch.” Now he feels he should have done something about the homeless when he had the chance.
Then, during one of the most tender moments of the play, when Lear awakes to Cordellia by his side, he seems to genuinely apologize and even poses the idea for his death as a means for Cordellia to forgive him:
Be your tears wet? yes, ‘faith. I pray, weep not:
If you have poison for me, I will drink it.
I know you do not love me; for your sisters
Have, as I do remember, done me wrong:
You have some cause, they have not (4.7.73-76)
He admits what he has done is wrong and feels he deserves to be reprimanded for his wrong doings so harshly that he would willingly drink poison of Cordellia felt that was right.
King Lear has changed throughout the play, once he has stepped down from the position of the king, he now has a first hand account of being oppressed. Although, as I develop more of a sense of empathy for King Lear, I keep hypothetically thinking if he would have this revelation if he stayed as king. One can argue that he has these revelations only because he is no longer the king, and being oppressed sucks. So NOW, all he has left is Cordellia, and not his greedy and superficial daughters. So, all he’s got is Cordellia: he’s lost the throne, (seemingly) his sanity, and the one who truly loves him, has stuck by his side.


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