Power, Madness, and Identity

by Maya L

In King Lear, the characters’ desires for power shape everything they do, including how they see themselves. Lear, for instance, bases all of his worth on how much power he has, so he doesn’t know how to handle it when he loses his power. When his daughters insist he only have what he needs, he argues that that makes him no better than an animal. It’s made clear that he believes the powerless aren’t deserving of respect, and so the realization that others have lost their respect for him comes alongside the realization of how much power he’s lost. Since he equates his power to his humanity, he then leads himself to believe that he’s losing his humanity, and he starts to go mad.

The way I view his madness is that it resulted from his belief that he was going mad. He believed himself to be losing all that made him worthy and human, and so he let himself lose his mind as well. I find it fascinating how his attachment to power and station is what hurt him the most, not the betrayal of his daughters. I believe that he wouldn’t have fallen so hard from the betrayal had he valued more important things, such as his relationship with Cordelia. If he had focused on the important things in life, he wouldn’t have felt as if he had lost so much, and certainly not like he had lost his humanity. Lear is an example of how the priorities of most of the characters seem to be misplaced, and that only seems to hurt them in the end.

One thought on “Power, Madness, and Identity

  1. CAIT O.

    This title is perfect! “Power, madness, and identity” essentially sums up how power interferes with identity and may erupt in utter chaos as we battle our internal storm brought on by an identity crisis that was brought on by power insecurities.

    Like

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