King Lear Through The Freudian Lens

Like Shakespeare, the neurologist Sigmund Freud has left a lasting impression on his respective field of study. Freud is the founder of psychoanalysis and his theory, the Freudian Theory, postulates that the personality is composed of three distinct aspects: the id, the ego, and the superego. The id is categorized by following instinctive impulses and urges; the superego is the moral and self-critical conscience component of the personality; the ego acts as the realistic middle ground between the superego and the id. All three classifications can be used to characterize the characters in King Lear.

Id: The id is best demonstrated by Goneril and Regan who act out their immoral impulses by unremorsefully betraying their father for personal gain, going to extremes to get what they want by means of using others, and viewing those who disagree with their opinions as weak.

Ego: Both the Fool and Edgar act as the voice of reason by expressing the truth to Lear, understanding the inner workings of society, and gaining insight into reality.

Superego: Kent is the middle ground between greedy Goneril and Regan and the moral Fool and Edgar. Kent acts as Lear’s conscience, recognizes Regan and Goneril’s cruelty, and understands the error of Lear’s actions.