Lear’s Despotism

In King Lear, one of the protagonists, Lear himself, exhibits many similarities to historical dictators and tyrants. Although Lear has clearly not caused the same societal damage or outright atrocities as many notorious “leaders,” he possesses one trait common among all despots: lust for power.

In the actual play, Lear gives up his power to two of his daughters, Regan and Goneril, as he has gotten old and he no longer wants the duties of being king. To Lear’s surprise, his daughters do not treat him as he thinks he should be treated, which is like a king. Lear has gotten so used to being treated like a king that he believes that is how he should be treated even when he is no longer king. He makes demands that are not fulfilled and becomes angry because of it. He is eventually kicked out of the kingdom that was formerly his. Similar to many dictators, Lear thirsts for his lost power, and will stop at nothing to get it back. He does not want to deal with all of the problems he faced when he was king, but he continues to seek the respect and power he has when he was king. Ultimately, Lear is a power hungry guy who lost his main desire through no one’s fault but his own.

3 thoughts on “Lear’s Despotism

  1. JAMES T.

    I agree with you here and wonder is Lear is even sane. I think the power hungry dictator is a very common villain so its interesting to see it from the main character side of things. I wonder where Lear goes from here in the story.


  2. Sam S

    While Lear realizes his actions too late, I think your analysis can be instructive for many in power. Not just dictators but parents, teachers, bosses, politicians, and others in power often find themselves in similar positions as King Lear. Perhaps his saga can provide both a warning and a tool for those who wield power to understand.



    I believe that where Lear “went wrong” was giving up his power to those unloyal to him. Lear was so blinded by those who flattered him that he failed to look past these shallow lies. He entrusted his land to Goneril and Regan when he should have given his land to Cordelia instead. Cordelia was the daughter which Lear had the best relationship previously and he ended up not giving her any of his land simply because she refused to profess her love to him in the same extravagant manner as Goneril and Regan did. Cordelia believed that she had already proven her love of Lear in the past and that she should not have to prove her love through flashy compliments. Lear’s mistrust of Cordelia would ultimately lead to his downfall.


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