What Even is Power???

One of the biggest themes that stood out to me is the concept of power. Power is a weird idea and one that I honestly understand even less after analyzing this story. My biggest question is what does having power even mean in reality because in this story everyone that feels like they have power doesn’t really. The power shifted among many of the characters but nobody even had the power that they thought they had.

People have a natural craving for power that whether or not you know it, is deeply inside every person in my opinion. I think that while everyone seeks some amount of power, nobody ever knows what to do with it once it’s in their possession. Power is something that can control the actions of people and that is seen throughout all the best movies, books, and shows. There is almost always a power that is being sought after or controlled in every good story. But I don’t know if I can think of a single story where the original person with power retains it from start to finish. This holds true in King Lear as we see power get tossed around like a bag of rocks throughout the story. I don’t think anyone knows how to truly the power they have during the novel.

Furthermore, I’m not sure if I know what power means. I think the people considered to not have the “power” in stories are oftentimes the most powerful characters. Power is truly just a social construct that has held to form throughout all of humanity but for reasons I do not understand. Honestly, I think power is pretty overrated.

Mitch “Caius” McConnell

Trump’s second impeachment (February 2021) involved four days of trials and statements—including a statement from Mitch McConnell. According to McConnell, someone who notoriously blindly followed and supported everything the former president vouched for,

“There is no question — none — that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day.”

As soon as I heard him utter the words I was reminded of Shakespeare’s King Lear and Lear’s relationship with Kent, his loyal servant. Throughout the play you see various examples of different dynamics between those in power and their servants. Some characters, such as Lear, prefer someone who would be on beck and call and not ask questions or make suggestions. Considering Trump’s obvious attempt to pack his cabinet with those of the same views as him, he and Lear would get along in that regard.

McConnell, someone who made himself a hypocrite following the passing of Justice RGB and going back on his word in 2016 all in support of Trump’s ideals, made an unpredictable move during the impeachment trials. He stated that he thinks Trump is in the wrong, something that most Trump supporters refuse to admit.

This “betrayal” is similar to Kent’s argument to Lear. He tries to show Lear how problematic actions were and Lear lashes out at him and bans him from his kingdom. Kent, ever the faithful servant returns under a disguise of a beggar named Caius and still does his best to serve and assist Lear. McConnell did vouch for Trump to be tried on the state level as opposed to federal, which would produce a different option than being convicted after being out of office. Plus he still voted to acquit so he didn’t suddenly change his ways overnight.

Only time will tell is McConnell is more of a blindly trusting servant or more similar to Kent where he does everything for good and to help Trump not further ruin “the Republican reputation”. However, his statement at the trial was certainly a big step.

If you want a good article to read there was one written by NPR which I found very helpful:


Identity in King Lear: All The World’s a Stage

Identity is a major theme throughout King Lear. Starting at the very beginning of the play, there are allusions to the world of theatre and acting. When asking to hear his daughter’s speeches, Lear doesn’t care if it’s the truth, he just wants them each to take their roles of the grateful daughter and work with them. Later, both Kent and Edgar disguise themselves out of necessity, and when pretending to be someone else for so long, the lines often get blurred between a character and one’s true self. However, the difference between Kent and Edgar is that the purpose of Kent’s disguise is to protect Lear, while Edgar’s is to protect himself. The characters are often unable to see through disguises, particularly Lear, as he is too lost to think of anything but himself and his daughters. The use of false roles and deception shows parallels to another one of Shakespeare’s plays, As You Like It. In As You Like It, Jacques, the melancholy fool, gives a long speech about how “all the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” I find it interesting how two of Shakespeare’s prominent plays express the same theme of life simply being acting. Everyone is playing a character and putting on a disguise or a facade in some way, and those who fail to disguise themselves properly often suffer the most. The ability to manipulate one’s identity can seem to be a strong shield against others, but in the end, there is nothing that can truly protect the fragile nature of one’s true self.

It Doesn’t Matter Anyway

by Jasmine W

King Lear operates on several complex levels in both its literary and thematic message. While the story and its characters’ actions all have a lot to say about the larger meanings of life, I found it very interesting to also witness a little bit of an ode to life’s simplicity as I followed along. As Gloucester famously states, “As flies to wanton boys are we to th’ gods; They kill us for their sport” (IV.i.41-42). When drawn in by the tragic plot full of betrayal, death, and irony, it is easy to forget about the story’s relation to the rest of the world. In retrospect, however, each and every one of the characters and our lives does not matter. Regardless of what happens to us, life and time move on.

It is here where a connection can be drawn between Shakespeare’s King Lear and Albert Camus’ The Stranger, which we read earlier in the year. In fact, I think almost any work of fiction can be viewed in part through and existentialist lens; nuanced reminders of just how insignificant human life is are present everywhere. That being said, I am a firm believer that the meaning of our life can only be determined by us, and dwelling on its insignificance in the face of eternity does not help anything. (But if that’s what you want to do, by all means, go for it.) If you make a mistake, it should be deemed that by yourself, and not by society’s standards.

Upon reflection, I find it thoroughly amusing that a play as tacky (in my opinion) as King Lear can raise such philosophical questions such as the meaning of life.

Power in Society

Everywhere you go, there is going to be an imbalance in power. This is the way society has been constructed from day one. Tensions are created between different ethnicity’s and genders based on individuals getting the false sense that they are somehow “better than others” based on them having more power. In the play, we see how the power Lear has is immense, but easily thrown away. His own daughter stole the throne from him and take it as theirs. Power causes a great divide, because people will often do anything the can to obtain it.

Power has only increased for the people that posses it as time has gone on. With technology being such a prominent facet in our everyday lives, the power you have can seem bigger than ever with the ability to reach countless people. Too often, however, power is used in the wrong way. Goneril and Regan loved the power Lear had more than him himself. Because of this, they stole the thrown from him. Being someone in power has its positives and negatives in society. Power can easily be abused, and those not in as much power could easily abuse the power of others. Needless to say, power creates a lot of issues in modern day society, and in King Lear.

Expectations are Often Blind of Reality’s Likely Course

As seen in Act 1, scene 1, of Shakespeare’s King Lear, Lear intends to divide his kingdom amongst his daughters. It is inferred in this scene that King Lear expects his power will stay dominant over the kingdom despite the decision to give it all up. Clearly, Lear has been delusional from his previous safe and non-problematic rule enough to think that he will still hold power when he has chosen to give up his rule. However, giving up his power was not the cause of his loss of power, but it was who he gave it up to that destroyed him.

In my true heat
I find she names my very deed of love;
Only she comes too short
– (Regan, Act 1, Scene 1)

Regan and Goneril profess their “love” for King Lear saying that words can’t even describe their love, despite saying previously that words cannot describe how much they love their father. Lear turns a blind eye to these obviously exaggerated and distorted comments for the sake of his expectations. Instead of seeing what is clearly happening right in front of him (Goneril and Regan sucking up to their father in order to get the lands), Lear does not care as he believes that whatever he expects to happen, will happen. This is the downfall of Lear, and Shakespeare makes it a theme in the play. People in power often think that whatever they think is law, so how could any outcome that they didn’t want happen? That is the mindset of people like King Lear and the sisters until they too have suffered as the commons do. Perspective is one thing that almost never coexists with power.

The Women of King Lear

The portrayal of women in Shakespeare’s King Lear at first glance seems very progressive. Once you start to read further you notice that the progressive nature of the women is only used to further the gender norms of the time. Goneril and Regan who are the most progressive female characters in the book are portrayed as villainous even though if they were men they would only be perceived as taking what’s theirs. On the last page of act 3, when the servants are talking about Regan and Cornwall, they say that they don’t care what they do as long as Cornwall advances in life however discussing Regan they say that women will all turn evil if justice isn’t swift upon Regan for what she has done. This discussion is very telling of the true nature of how women should be viewed in King Lear. One may argue that Cordelia is another strong female character in the play and I can’t dispute that however, she is not portrayed as progressive like Goneril and Regan. The one time Cordelia truly stands up for herself and speaks her mind she is ridiculed and disowned by her father. She comes back later in the play to help defend that same father who disowned her, once again serving the men of the play. She resumes her “rightful” place by her father’s side, respecting him as her better even though he was so awful to her. 

“Think Like a Man”: A Study of Gender in King Lear

Throughout King Lear, Shakespeare explores gender roles through his female characters and believes that women are incapable of having positions of power because they will become corrupt. Right at the beginning of the play, Lear’s youngest daughter, Cordelia, is banished because she goes against his word. Immediately it is clear women are seen as disloyal, and this same pattern is carried on later into the play, when Lear’s other two daughters, Goneril and Regan, betray him as well. Lear feels a deep hatred for his daughters, and although they are his blood, he cannot see past the fact that they betrayed him. He feels he has been emasculated by his daughters after giving them his kingdom, and feels threatened that his daughters have enough power to take away his dominance. This idea goes against stereotypical gender roles at the time, as women were expected to not be in positions of power at all unless accompanied by a husband.

At the time, and even today, women have to work much harder to be seen as authority figures. Because of the stigma that men are not supposed to show emotion, Lear’s daughters have to work to hide their emotions while surrounded by men, “It seemed she was a queen O’er her passion, who, most rebel-like, Sought to be King o’er her” (Act four, 14-16). Cordelia is pushed to “think like a man and not like a woman”, and act like a king, rather than a queen. Any shown emotion makes her seem weak, and in order to stay in power she must defy the stereotypical woman’s gender role.

This defiance of gender roles is also seen with males in the play as well. When France invades Britain, the Duke of Albany goes against norms when he doesn’t fight back against France: “France spreads his banners in our noiseless land, with plumed helm thy state begins to threat, Whilst thou, a moral fool sits still and cries” (Act four, 57-59). Instead of becoming aggressive and asserting power, Albany sits back and watches it happen in defeat. The word “fool” makes it clear his actions and emotions are highly frowned upon. Because he has failed to tae up the traditionally masculine role, Albany is seen as a feminine character in this point in the play as he is thinking with his emotions and not his head.

Gender roles are widely explored throughout the play, however it is clear Shakespeare believes women are inherently worse in positions of power than men are. Even when men slip out of their stereotypical roles, their actions are seen as feminine and therefore weak and frowned upon. This is an interesting play to read, especially now, because there is so much talk about women in positions of power in the world today. Many of the themes present in the play are still assumed about women and men today, and it just shows how much work needs to be done in todays society.

Women: The New Power Grabbers

Throughout Shakespeare’s King Lear, he sheds light on the gender roles during this time and the differences in power between women and men. During this time, men were the ones that ruled over the kingdoms with great power while women were only there to be their wives or daughters, trapped in the shadow of greedy men. This theme is very prominent in the beginning of the play, when Lear forces his daughters to profess their love for him in exchange for some of his power. When Lear calls upon his daughter Goneril she states,

Sir, I love you more than word can wield the matter…A love that makes breath poor, and speech unable. Beyond all manner of so much I love you.

Act I, Scene I, lines 60-67

In this statement, Goneril has to exaggerate her love for her father just for the slightest chance to get some type of power. In the same scene, Cordelia chooses not to lie and overstate the love she has for her father and because of this she is ridiculed. With this scene, Shakespeare expresses the idea that women cannot obtain power without the help of a man. This scene supports the construct of patriarchy by portraying the male as the all powerful ruler who must be pleased and obeyed if women hope to receive any sort of reward.

As the play progresses, the women begin to take initiative and gain power for themselves and their own agendas rather than being submissive to the men around them. This can be seen in many instances with the character Reagan such as when she has Gloucester captured and his eyes gouged out and when she grabs a sword to kill one of the servants. This character development is very significant because Reagan was one of the sisters who falsely professed her love for her father in the beginning of the play and now she is taking charge and fighting men.

Another example of a powerful woman in King Lear is Cordelia. From the beginning of the play she did not fake her emotions just to please her father and by the end of the play she became the queen of France and even gave power to her two sisters as well. With these female characters, Shakespeare contradicts the common narrative during this time period in which women were powerless by portraying them as fierce women who were able to overcome the powerful men and gain power for themselves.

Progression of Lear

Throughout Shakespeare’s play King Lear, we see Lear fall through many stages of his reign. In the beginning, he is power hungry and seeks love and attention from his daughters. Lear holds power above others in the play but as it goes on, we witness his downfall. After the betrayal of his daughters he is left powerless and alone, aside from the fool. In a search to regain his power and influence, Lear is exposed to the realities of common life. He sees peasants and servants, he witnesses their lives outside of his kingdom. He is astounded by how little they have and how he had never noticed it before. This is when Lear experiences a turning point and possible “attitude adjustment”. We see an empathetic and guilty side of Lear that had yet to be exposed. From this we will this his progression as the play moves forward and how he will utilize these eye-opening experiences.

The Corruption of Power

One of the most common desires is the one for power, yet seldom wonder about the effects it would bring. If a person were to obtain a large amount of power, whether it be the head of a kingdom or the leader of a family, how would they change? How hard would they fight to maintain their status? What would happen to them if they lost their power? Shakespeare’s dramatic play “King Lear” is a showcase of what power truly does to a person.

At the start of the play, Lear is a man who obsesses over his role as the King of England. While dividing up his land as he steps down, his two older daughters shower him in false flattery in an attempt to receive as much as possible from their father. His other daughter Cordelia, however, rejects his land, stating that she only wants his love. Lear rejects her honest compassion, preferring the attention from his other daughters. He is too flattered by the admiration from Reagan and Goneril to realize that it was false. His focus on appearance and power distracts him from his duties.

Lear’s obsession with appearance comes to a halt following his abdication. Being oblivious to his daughters’ deceit, he hoped to maintain his status without the title. However, he had heard that his servant, Oswald, had been sent away by Goneril. Lear arrives to Regan’s castles and details the pain that Goneril has caused him, but Regan sides with her sister. She also refuses to host him at her castle, as she sees her father as just a foolish old man. Lear becomes enraged at her actions, and he curses his daughters for their bad deeds. He proclaims that man is different from beast when stripped of his luxuries.

Lear, who was once the King of England, has been reduced a peasant that a king would most likely ignore. He was blinded by the flattery that he had received, as it reminded him of his status as a powerful king and loving father. His daughters then show their true intent, revealing their true intentions. Had he followed Cordelia and her honest love, he would have most likely been treated as he indented. His quest to maintain power was the cause of its removal.

Family Isn’t A Word … It’s A Blank Verse

Comparing Broken Family In King Lear And The Royal Tenenbaums

If King Lear were set in a manicured shoebox set and filmed in a series of whip pans and slow motion montages, it could quite easily be Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums. In fact, if King Lear were staged as a playbook within a film narrated by Alec Baldwin – it would be The Royal Tenenbaums.


The Royal Tenenbaums was Wes Anderson’s third film, and established his cinematic style as a integral to the modern cinematographic cannon. His previous two films, Bottle Rocket and Rushmore maintained a sense of obscurity and quaintness. Although later garnering a ‘cult classic’ (particularly Rushmore) reputation, The Royal Tenenbaums marked Anderson’s mainstream debut. The film was nominated for an Oscar in ‘best screenplay,’ and Gene Hackman’s tragic, Lear-like performance scored him a Golden Globe as Best Performance of an Actor.

The Royal Tenenbaums was Wes Anderson’s third film, and established his cinematic style as a integral to the modern cinematographic cannon. His previous two films, Bottle Rocket and Rushmore maintained a sense of obscurity and quaintness. Although later garnering a ‘cult classic’ (particularly Rushmore) reputation, The Royal Tenenbaums marked Anderson’s mainstream debut. The film was nominated for an Oscar in ‘best screenplay,’ and Gene Hackman’s tragic, Lear-like performance scored him a Golden Globe as Best Performance of an Actor.

The Royal Tenenbaums chronicle the comical tragedy of the Tenenbaum family’s downfall (and eventual redemption). Dysfunctionality, disappointment, and disaster plague Anderson’s whimsical, fictional Tenenbaum family and Lear’s family. In fact the archetypes within each story almost perfectly mirror each other.

Image result for pagoda royal tenenbaums

Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman) as King Lear: The dysfunctional father
Chas Tenenbaum (Ben Stiller) as Goneril: The bitter eldest child
Margot Tenenbaum (Gwyneth Paltrow) as Reagan: The neglected middle child
Raleigh St. Clair (Bill Murray) as Duke of Cornwall: The neglected middle child’s husband
Richie Tenenbaum as Cordelia: The favored, spoiled youngest child who least resents the dysfunctional father
Eli Cash as Fool: The comic relief and honest confidant
Pagoda as Kent: The dysfunctional father’s loyal servant

In Wes Anderson’s twee and warmly tinted world, a malingering Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman) desperately seeks familial redemption after abandoning his wife and children. His three children: Chas (Ben Stiller), Richie (Luke Wilson), and Margot (Gwenyth Paltrow) Tenenbaum were all once child prodigies who quickly fall into a post fame depression fueled by their fractured family. Familial complications run deep amongst the Tenenbaums, but Royal is clearly the primary antagonist and catalyst of the family’s demise. Similar to Lear, he drives his children away with his bluntness, insensitivity, and pompousness. Detached from his children for nearly two decades, Royal Tenenbaum plans on redeeming himself as a father and husband after finding out that his wife, Etheline Tenenbaum (Anjelica Huston) is engaged to Henry Sherman (Danny Glover). In a desperate attempt to insert himself into their lives, Royal fakes a terminal illness to garner their sympathy. Comparable to the filial rejection Lear faces, Royal’s children initially reject his apologizes and offer him little sympathy. Like Cordelia, Chas is preferentially treated over his other siblings (who were left to the wayside), and is therefore the most eager to forgive and accept his rejected father. Royal is particularly hurt by this, one could even venture to say that “[it is] sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is/to have a thankless [Chas]” (1.4.301-302). Furthermore, the eldest children in both Lear and Royal’s families are the most resentful and first to denounce their father. The two stories end in bittersweet loss, inevitably anticipated by the audience. Though Royal initially fakes his malignant illness, he dies at the age of 68 from a heart attack proceeding Richie’s traumatic suicide attempt. Comparably, Lear ultimately meets his demise after mourning the death of his youngest, most prized daughter, Cordelia. In a way, the two tragic patriarchs both die realizing they came back to their families all too late.

The Royal Tenenbaums and King Lear both use ironic humor to enhance the tragic complexity of their characters. Uncoincidentally, both King Lear and The Royal Tenenbaums have been referred to as great ‘tragicomedies.’ They both strategically balance the devastating with the comical, adding to the bittersweetness of each piece. Anderson and Shakespeare succeed in intermingling this dry and crooked humor with gory tragedy. Richie’s bloody suicide attempt set to Elliott Smith’s “Needle in the Hay” dramatically contrasts his trickling blood with the cold, blue atmosphere of the family bathroom. This parallels the macabre of Goneril’s bloody suicide and Gloucester’s gruesome blinding.

The clear difference between The Royal Tenenbaums and King Lear is their characterization of ‘good’ and ‘evil.’ The original Shakespearean play draws a clear distinction between purity and wickedness. The Royal Tenenbaums blurs this division, rendering each Tenenbaum family member as heart wrenching, yet lovable in their flaws. This isn’t to say that the characters in King Lear aren’t complex or layered. Edmund as an antagonist evokes a particular empathy from the audience, similar to the way viewers warm to see past Royal’s brash callousness. Despite Edmund’s suffering and slight redemption, he can still be easily distinguished as evil. Goneril and Reagan embody evil, yet Chas and Margot are in no way overtly cruel. Their distance and frustration clearly stems from childhood trauma, and although they are distrustful of their father they don’t actively seek to harm him (except for Chas’ snide verbal jabs). Although Chas is the kindest of the three Tenenbaum children, he is in no way a perfect embodiment of goodness like Cordelia. Though King Lear effectively develops complex villains, it ultimately dramatically exaggerates the line between good and bad. The Royal Tenenbaums is a more realistic portrayal of familial dysfunction, and the ending is significantly less theatrical. Royal achieves a palpable and heartwarming level of redemption with his entire family, dying with less remorse than Lear. Royal certainly “[spoke] what [he] [felt]/not what [he] ought to say” (5.3.393).

Losing Lear

In Shakespeare’s play King Lear, the main character King Lear struggles to find his identity. At the beginning of the novel, we see King Lear as a powerful ruler over his kingdom. As the story progresses Lear begins to lose his grasp on his power and this causes his perspective to shift. Previously, Lear lacked the understanding of his own power and class, but as he begins to lose the respect of others, only the Fool is left to support him. The Fool serves as an opportunity for Lear to see someone of a different class as a human and therefore acknowledge the parallels between himself and those of a lower class. By seeing these parallels, Lear realizes the inequality and unfairness he has promoted during his reign.

Unwritten Rulebook

When Cordelia enters in Act 4 scene 4 she is described as an angel from her true love for her family, unlike her sisters, to then her immesuarable physical beauty. She is described not as a hero coming back to a family ruined by lust for power and amount of deaths but as a beakon off hope. This gentle approach to the view of a women comes from the universal view of women being family women who are often the symbol of good. Not as the hero or brave soilder that men often portray who can more easily accepted in societies eyes as the antagonist. These biases are further being adressed and called out from the new era for equality for all, breaking down gender roles in society. Although this memo of change seems to not have reached some like the Millenials and Boomers. As all ages of women still learn and are scolded based on the faults of males. Such as their choice of clothing and that relation to their worth as people and status to others.

Those gender bias can be further seen earlier in Act 4, in scene 2 as Goneril is seenas evil and selfish as she has taken over ‘Albanys army.’ They insult each other calling each other putrid names and Albany states he would punch her now but he will not, as its implied she is a woman. Albany is reinforcing the social rules he’s been taught sparing the kind lady despite her cruel actions. Is it possible to get rid of these ‘unwritten rules’ or can it not be changed because these motifs have been perpetuated and stay intact throughout centuries. I have hope that Gen X will change the outlook and the future will lead to a non gender biased way of life, creating a accepting and unperpetuated life.

A Powerful Woman

In Shakesphere’s King Lear, the idea of a woman in power is portrayed as negative. Even today, it is unsettling to me that woman are seen more negatively in a position of power than men are. There is still an idea that a powerful women is cold, intense and “crazy.” In the case of Michele Obama, the media had to make her seem more feminine and family oriented in order for others to find her worthy of respect.

In Taylor Swift’s song “If I Was a Man,” she sings,

They wouldn’t shake their heads
and question how much of this I deserve
What I was wearing
If I was rude
Could all be separated
from my good ideas
and power moves?

Women are more likely to be judged on their appearance, and how they act than by the work/talent they have. People seem to be bothered when women don’t fit the stereotypes of cooperative, supportive and humble. Also the idea of a woman with children is to motherly to lead, but if she doesn’t have children, then she isn’t living up to society’s expectations. Its a continuous cycle and double standard. A man can lead without it being implied that they are “weak” or “overemotional.”

I do think improvements have been made, and will continue to do so in the future. I think more people should be aware though of the stereotypes/ criticism that goes along with being a woman in power.

Gender Roles: A Social Construct

Throughout Shakespeare’s novel, King Lear, the theme of gender roles regarding women and power is expressed. The novel suggests that women seem to be incapable of achieving power on their own and if they were to receive power it would corrupt their judgement. Which would ultimately lead to chaos and downfall. Shakespeare challenges these traditional gender roles of women in society by giving Regan and Goneril power. The conversation we had in class about nasty women and why men have a problem with it was very interesting to me. It is very obvious that when men feel threatened by a females power they tend to fight back, sometimes even insult. As seen in the play when Lear called his own daughters “hags” and “witches” as a result of them obtaining power. Even though Shakespeare challenged the norm of the time allowing a few women to have power, he still made them out to be crazy for wanting that power. Whereas the male characters who sought out just as much if not more power than them weren’t portrayed as crazy.

The Problem With Finding Identity In Power

We’ve talked a lot this year about identity and power, and how they intersect. People’s identities are tied in with the power they have or do not have. However, a person’s identity should not only be based upon their position of power; if they lose that power, their entire identity crumbles.

In King Lear, we see this play out with the character of Lear himself. At the beginning of the play, he is king, he has as much power as he wants, and that seems to encompass his entire character. As the play progresses, Lear’s power diminishes. First, he gives it away, to his daughters, but soon he begins to lose it against his will as Regan and Goneril take more and more away from him. It is then, in the storm, when Lear grapples with something more than a loss of power: a loss of identity. Lear placed his entire identity in his role and power as king, and now that he no longer has that, he is lost. Subsequently, he begins going mad, with no idea of who he is and no control over what happens to him.

It is dangerous to place one’s identity in only one thing, especially when that one thing can be easily lost, just as Lear’s power was. Power and identity are linked together, but they should be part of a larger web that makes up who a person is.

Corruption in Power

The journey to power is corrupting but once power is gained, loyalty is lost and deceit takes its course. Think about Lear and his daughters. They lied about the amount of love they had for him just to obtain power. He had nothing but love for his daughters. When they obtained the power they then took his remaining authority and his rights. This corruption eventually led to Lear’s death. Corruption today ties back to our government. Power has responsibilities that challenges ones integrity and morality. Without loyalty power remains corrupt.

What Defines Us?

In King Lear, it is shown that Lear’s most defining characteristic is the fact that he is a powerful king. However, what else do we know about him as a character? Do we associate his character more than his influence?

Many people today associate powerful people with traits like intelligence, success, and devotion. However, the person could in reality embody none of those traits at all. We only associate them with those traits because of their position. A big name CEO can be praised all over the internet for their hard work, but could have had all of the resources to become powerful. While, someone in a position of power would receive no praise at all, simply because of their lack of power and influence. They would get told to “pick up themselves from their bootstraps” or to simply “work harder” when in reality, no matter how hard they worked, they would never achieve the same level of “success” as others in power.

Lear, forcibly gets to understand what power truly was and how influential it was to his image and his character. He is no more than his title, has no other defining character traits, and essentially is nothing without what he had. Thus, leading him to spiral into insanity. What do we do without identity?

Family = Love? Maybe Not

Many characters in King Lear do not seek true love but only selfish and false representation of love. True love is unconditional and honest while selfish love is motivated by money, lust, or merely approval from others.

At the start of the play, Lear stages a love test. Lear tests each of his daughters on how much they love him. Opportunistic Goneril and Regan flatter him and he accepts this because he sees verbal love as true love. Lear rewards Goneril and Regan’s love for him by giving them land and wealth. This only enforces the idea that material things are not apart of true love.

The youngest sister, Cordelia, is not as eager to confess her love to her father.

What shall Cordelia speak? Love and be silent.

(Act I, Scene 1)

Cordelia makes it clear that she loves him, but she can’t put it into words. She knows that words can’t truly express true feelings. True love does not require mere words as a dedication to devotion. Unfortunately Lear does not understand that so he disowns her when she refuses to flatter him.

Soon after, Cordelia is to get passed off. She is expected to marry Burgundy or France. But now that she is disowned with no dowry or title, her status has decreased. Soon, Cordelia gets rejected by Burgundy because he only seeks authority and power from a possible relationship with her. But France steps forward and takes her hand because he understands the true meaning of love, which enforces Cordelia’s representation of true love.

Then arrives the second plot of the play – Gloucester and his two sons, Edgar and Edmund.

Gloucester makes fun of Edmund’s illegitimacy and refers to him as “whoreson” (Act I. Scene 1). Edmund is desperate to feel loved so he selfishly plots his father’s and Edgar’s demise to feel above from his title as a bastard child.

Edmund lies to Gloucester and puts Edgar against Gloucester. Gloucester is quick to accept these claims without any proof. Gloucester rejects Edgar the same way Lear disowns Cordelia. Gloucester then tries to execute Edgar while Lear banishes Cordelia.

While Lear and Gloucester reject their respective child that represents true love, they fall for the characters that represent anti-love. Goneril, Regan, and Edmund represent false love. They are only motivated by money, lust, or self-serving love.

Edgar and Cordelia are the epitome of true love. They are forced to suffer banishment, rejection, and Edgar has to disguise himself to remain loyal. Cordelia rushes to help Lear when she learns of his new state and Edgar kills Oswald to defend Gloucester. They consistently prove their love for their respective fathers despite when their respective fathers’s have casted them out.

At least in the beginning, Lear and Gloucester are similar to Goneril, Edgar, and Regan because they all represent false love. They all have flawed perceptions of love. Lear and Gloucester see true love as approval from others while the three antagonist are motivated by money, lust, and their self-serving nature.

But Lear and Gloucester are forced to confront their mistakes. They spend most of the play suffering and facing the consequences of their actions. Soon they learn that verbal love does not equate to true love. But that true love is more than skin deep.