What Makes a Good Friend?

The character traits that make up a good friend are honesty and loyalty. They should not be afraid to speak up and tell you when you have a bad idea, are being rude, or have food in your teeth. Shakespeare’s King Lear demonstrates the importance of a loyal and honest friend through Kent’s actions. In the beginning of Act 1, Kent tells King Lear to “see better” and realize how foolish he is being by disowning Cordelia (I.i.180). Even though Kent steps out of line and goes against what King Lear wishes, he acts with King Lear’s best intentions in mind.

Kent remains loyal to King Lear even after he is banished. He returns in disguise to continue to care for and protect King Lear from himself and others. “Now, banished Kent, / If thou canst serve where thou dost stand / condemned, / So may it come thy master, whom thou lov’st, / Shall find thee full of labors” (I.iv.4-8). In these lines, Kent displays his loyalty to King Lear as he risks his life to continue serving the King. He did not give up when King Lear banished him, he returned to continue supporting King Lear and to make King Lear realize his mistakes.

Although loyalty is one of the qualities that makes up a good friend, it needs to be paired with honesty. Because, without honesty, loyalty can easily turn into blindly following and serving someone. Goneril’s servant, Oswald, demonstrates this lacking quality as he blindly follows Goneril’s instructions. Kent points out Oswald’s lack of honesty as he says, “Knowing naught, like dogs, but following” (II.ii.84). Kent accuses Oswald of being a bad servant because he does not stand up to Goneril’s evil actions and tell her that she is making mistakes, unlike Kent who tells King Lear when he has made mistakes. Not even half way through the play, Shakespeare has delivered a message about the importance of honesty and loyalty in friends.

6 thoughts on “What Makes a Good Friend?

  1. ZACHARY B

    I agree that a characteristic that is contradicted within the play is honesty as honesty is what brings loyalty. Oswald is a great example of someone who was dishonest which I really liked that you used in your post. Many people in the story like Oswald is why I truly believe the kingdom fell so drastically. All in all I agree with your and admire its structure.

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  2. Emma L

    I think using the servants as an example of what good friends look like is an interesting take on this idea, because we wouldn’t really think of the servants as friends because they are portrayed as subordinates. However, this comparison makes complete sense to me considering Kent never fails to be loyal and honest.

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  3. Mirabella V.

    At first when I was reading I thought that it was interesting that you used the servants to say what makes a good friend, but then I thought and in King Lear, there aren’t really any other characters that you could use to describe a good friendship. But I think that the way the servants act to their upper hand is a good way to get the message of what a good friend should act like. Especially seen in Kent who had so many reasons to be against Lear.

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  4. Nick W.

    I think this applies to Cordelia as well. She displays the important quality of a good friend or, in this case, a “good daughter.” She is honest to her father. She refuses to suck up to him with pleasing, over-the-top words of love. She says that she loves him as she should love her father, no more, no less.

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  5. TALIB B

    I like that you have loyalty as one of the two big characteristics that a friend should have. Usually, you hear about honesty, compassion, and kindness which are all valuable but in the end, loyalty is the true trait that should be valued above all else. 21 Savage once said “I’d rather have loyalty than love ‘Cause love really doesn’t mean jack. See love is just a feeling. You can love somebody and still stab them in the back. It don’t take much to love. You can love somebody just by being attached. See loyalty is a action. You can love or hate me and still have my back”. Here 21 savage spoke to why loyalty should be valued above all else. In King Lear, Lear had numerous people who “loved him”, like his daughters, but in the end, it was only his loyal servants who stood up for him and actually made a difference. Loyalty is a fail-safe when all else fails and all good friends, despite any other faulty trait, have loyalty.

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  6. LUKE L

    Oswald’s purpose is not to be a friend, but a servant. I would say that Oswald is better servant but bad friend while Kent is the opposite. Both of these traits/ job descriptions have their pros and cons, however Oswald was never meant to be a friend like Kent is. Kent is a servant, is addition to being a friend to Lear. Oswald has no other obligations other than to do as he’s told.

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