The Forgotten Daughter

The story of King Lear is an interesting one, and it follows a myriad of characters and their development as they face the challenges of living in a monarchy. One particular character however stood out to me, King Lear’s youngest daughter, Cordelia. At the beginning of the play, Cordelia is more or less banished from the kingdom, due to her unwillingness to exaggerate when it came to her love for her father. Even at the start, we as readers, or the audience, can see that Cordelia is written to be honest. However, we can also see that she will not be rewarded or even recognized for this honesty, which is where we can see the first glimpses of a possible tragedy in King Lear.

Unfortunately, throughout the play, we do not get to see a lot of Cordelia, as she has been effectively shunned from her family and her life. However, as the play goes on, King Lear learns the gravity of his mistake, in terms of entrusting his eldest two daughters with his kingdom, simply because they were full of kind words, which fueled his ego. The idea of a tragedy in itself is to see these seemingly random and tragic events happen, while also keeping in mind the intentional lesson that is behind many of these events. For example, as Lear is slowly going mad, he begins to reflect on where he went wrong, and he realizes how his treatment of Cordelia should have differed. Needless to say, Lear grew as a person, but back to Cordelia.

Personally, I believe everyone could learn a thing or two from Cordelia simply based on her limited actions throughout the play. We mainly see Cordelia at the beginning of the play and at the end of the play. Although throughout this time Cordelia has gained recognition and power, being the queen of France, she returns with the same humility and grace she initially had. One of the more important lessons that can be taken from King Lear is that of humility, and how wrong things can go when we as humans start relying on our egos and greed to fuel our livelihood. It is important, I think, to take note of Cordelia’s humility, and how much concern she still had for her father and his wellbeing upon her return, despite his treatment of her being so harsh as to banish her completely. Although there was no happy ending, there are many lessons we can take away from King Lear, even more specifically from the individual characters we are introduced to.

2 thoughts on “The Forgotten Daughter

  1. Brendy F.

    I think that there are many parallels to be drawn between Cordelia’s demeanor and that of Elizabeth I of England. Both were women in power, surrounded by men and both earned their legitimacy through their more feminine characteristics, such as purity, honesty and emotional control.
    Similarly, Elizabeth I was much revered by the English, so Shakespeare must’ve had her at least in his thoughts when writing King Lear.


  2. Michael D.

    The one part of Cordelia’s story that I don’t understand is how she was able to come back to England and talk with Lear without drawing suspicion, considering that she was invading the country. I also don’t entirely understand her motive for going along with the invasion, given that her sisters were ruling the kingdom and her father was going mad.

    Liked by 1 person

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