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.