Throughout King Lear by Shakespeare, class remains an ultimate heavy part of characters and the journeys they take. Lear goes through the storm and has a reflection on poor people and how they are supposed to fend for themselves in the storm (III.iv.30-38). This is a breach into the social structure the play originally constructs with Lear as the King and thus his daughters having mighty power in the kingdom with many servants. The most intriguing parts of the book however were the bold actions of those around these characters that were built up into such a high level of class that they appear at first untouchable. King Lear at the start of the play seems in control and then Kent goes against what he says and claims he is making a mistake with his harsh actions towards Cordelia (I.i). Kent being lower in status compared to Lear demonstrates yet another occasion where the shakiness of the status is portrayed as a good thing in the play when thought about carefully. The self-clarity Lear has in the storm from viewing a status perspective other than his own is positive and Kent speaking up for Cordelia when she received unwarranted rage is a good thing as well.
One of the most shocking parts of King Lear that grab readers’ attention is in Act III scene viii was when a servant halts Cornwall from plucking out Gloucester’s other eye and tries to tell Cornwall that right now is the breaking point where he needs to stop. The servant and Cornwall physically battle in a sense of who is morally right while Cornwall fights purely out of rage that the servant has stood out against him despite their huge gap in status and the servant battles for the morale of not gouging someone’s eyes out. At first, readers think that the servant was not that important because of the fact that he dies but he wounds Cornwall which causes both of their deaths. Further, this comes as a shock that someone would even speak so openly out of turn while a person in power is torturing a supposed traitor is surprising. Then that the servant inflicts fatal damage can prove to support the idea that in the end, the people with good morals and who fight for their causes will be successful with their intentions. The servant wanted Cornwall to realize the consequences of his actions and get him to by physically making him weak and bringing him on to the afterlife. The power coming from this random servant in King Lear makes readers feel that sense of hopefulness that the morally strong people in the world can make a difference no matter what class they are in.
3 thoughts on “Courageous Usurpers of Morals”
I loved the point you made about the duality of the fight scene with the servant. I hadn’t thought about the moral nature along with the physical part for the fight. Your analysis of class in the play was clear and concise and your last point about the servant wounding Cornwall, inevitably killing him, was an interesting connection to having consequences catch up to him.
I think this is a super important theme in the play that isn’t focused on very often. While all the characters are indeed power-hungry, I like how you point out that many of them are just scared of being seen the way they see “poorer” or less fortunate people. I also hadn’t thought about how their views played a part in their actions, doing anything to assert themselves over lower classes.
I thought your comments about the class system and how many of the characters see themselves as “untouchable” at the start of the play were very accurate, and these things are typically overlooked due to seemingly more important events. It was refreshing to see a different focus.