Personality Typing in King Lear

One of my favorite things to do when I encounter a new story is to try my hand at assigning them a Myers-Briggs personality type. When it comes to King Lear, some of the characters were abnormally easy to gauge, as they served as archetypes for a few different types. Lear, for example, is a typical ESTJ. Generally seen as power-hungry and strong-minded, ESTJs have a cognitive function stack of Te-Si-Ne-Fi. This means that their dominant function is extroverted thinking (Te), which harshly analyzes the world around them to process and organize information. In King Lear, we see this in his tendency to look at information from a purely rational perspective and his blatant disregard for the feelings of those around him. ESTJ’s auxiliary function is introverted sensing (Si), which is a processing function and determines an individual’s method of processing information internally and in real-time. This manifests in King Lear’s frequent comparisons of current events, not from a philosophical standpoint, but from a more rational and pragmatic one. The combination of his dominant and auxiliary functions serves to take in information directly from the environment, analyze it based on tangible and factual data, and organize it into a logical framework that compares current and past data in order to categorize things appropriately. The tertiary function of an ESTJ is extriverted intuition (Ne), which seeks to observe and understand the possibilities of the outside world. Because this is not one of his first two functions it is used far less frequently and is developed later on in life than the Te and Si. Finally, the inferior function is introverted feeling (Fi). This function, used the least, guides the ESTJ through the processing of their own emotions.

However, while under stress, ESTJs begin to act very differently. The tendency of every MBTI type, while undergoing some kind of stressful event or period, is to fall back on their tertiary and inferior functions because of an overhwleming desire to excape. In the case of ESTJs, they begin to heavily lean on Ne and Fi, causing them to overanalyze the philosophical implications of their poor state-of-mind and hyperfixate on their feelings of confusion and unrest. Ne and Fi are the two dominant functions of an INFP, Cordelia’s type (Fi, Ne, Si, Te). I believe this is why Lear and Cordelia seem to find much more common ground by the end of the play, as their outlook and processing of information is somewhat similar.

The King’s healthy functioning is seen almost exclusively at the beginning of the play, but as he begins to deteriorate, the pragmatic and decisive nature of his ESTJ stack deteriorates with him, causing himself to get lost in an internal world of deep sorrow and complex questioning of life.

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