The Voice of Reason in King Lear

Kent is the dedicated and loyal servant in this story. He is loyal to the King above all else. Not only this but he is firmly blunt the entire play saying things like, “What wouldst thou do, old man?” (I.1.145) to the King himself, offering one of the only voices of reason in the story. He is pretty likable throughout the entire play, giving clear advice that, as the audience, we can see is ultimately justified. Even after he is banished for only trying to do right by the King, he remains loyal, going out of his way to disguise himself in order to still support Lear. Kent is one of the most passionate characters in the play, he is fiercely dedicated to Lear and defends his name with deep devotion. In act 2, we see how passionately affected Kent is by the prospect of others undermining Lear. He goes so far as to attack Oswald when he suspects him of plotting against Lear, he becomes enraged on an extreme level as if he himself was being betrayed. In act 3, when he is out in the storm, he is only concerned about Lear’s well-being. In act 4, he undermines Lear to save him by communicating with Cordelia, one of the only other respectable characters in the play. Kent’s conflict is external, he never once doubts his love and respect for Lear himself but those around him are suspicious of his obsessive behavior which tends to costs him as the rest of the kingdom shifts away from loyalty to the king and towards a new system of power (both in the beginning when he is banished and later in the story). Kent’s conflict is also connected to the Lear’s conflict as he is ostensibly an extension of Lear. When Lear’s authority is threatened, Kent sees it his duty to remain honest and supportive of his king, despite the controversy and conflict it creates among the daughters and other members of the kingdom. His decision to remain loyal to Lear and his persistent fight for him to regain his power suggests he (like Lear) is also obsessed with the hierarchy of power within the kingdom. In the final scene in act 5, Kent eludes to killing himself after Lear’s death, a depressing yet fitting ending for the loyal servant in the story. Now that Lear is dead and the old hierarchy of power can no longer be restored, Kent’s purpose is lost and there seems to be no place for him in a kingdom without Lear.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s