The Unmatched Strength of Loyalty

A consistent motif found in King Lear is loyalty. Many characters exercise varying degrees of loyalty, and their decision to stay loyal to their sides of the conflict acts as a deciding factor in their deaths. Albany, Edgar, and Kent the three notable survivors, are all loyal to Lear’s side. Despite remaining on the side of Regan, Goneril, and Cornwall for the majority of the play, he denounces his loyalty to them and gains empathy for Lear, ultimately earning his survival despite not recognizing the deception of his superiors sooner. Likewise, Edgar, through both his legitimacy and innocence, assists Gloucester and Lear, ultimately killing his brother Edmund, avenging his trickery and misdeeds. While not completely loyal to Lear, the sheer force of his actions is what spares his life.

Kent is the most loyal of Lear’s aides. Although Lear “fires” him in Act I, Kent refuses to give up, and continues to serve him under disguise. However, Kent is not simply loyal out of blind trust, he understands Lear on a personal level, and knows when to call him out. This honesty may be to his detriment, but it shows the strength of his character.

Let it fall, though the fork invade

The region of my heart. Be Kent unmannerly

When Lear is mad What wouldst thou do, old man?

Think’st thou that duty shall have dread to speak

When power to flattery bows? To plainness honor’s bound

When majesty falls to folly. Reserve thy state,

And in thy best consideration check

This hideous rashness. Answer my life my judgement,

Thy youngest daughter does not love thee least,

Nor are those empty-hearted whose low sounds

Reverb no hollowness.

-Kent (Act 1, Scene 1)

If Kent was not truly loyal, he would not call Lear out on his tendency to cave to flattery, and despite being banished for his outspokenness, he continues to serve him. Kent’s loyalty is not hollow, he is loyal to Lear on a level unmatched by any other character. This exhibition of powerful loyalty is what earns him his survival.

On the contrary, Edmund, Goneril, and Regan end up dead due to their lack of loyalty to Lear. Goneril and Regan outright defy their father and act as the opposing force against his power. Their deaths are products of their own failures and spite, driven by their own villainy. Edmund is killed by his brother Edgar, who is a servant of loyalty. His death is largely symbolic in that he represents a lack of faith in the play’s “force of good”. While he shows a bit of self-awareness for his actions, it is too late, and he is already bleeding out by the time he recognizes his failures.

FakeLove

In the novel, many individuals true colors are shown as time progresses through different situations. In the beginning of the novel King lives his best life while living in his kingdom. While he is living his best life he also has three daughters he has to take care of and worry about. The three daughters Regan, Goneril, and Cordelia all crave the life their father is living and frankly enough they rather live his life without him than live the lives they are living with him as King. The King needs to be loved and remembered and it would be up to the daughters to fulfill his needs. The 3 daughters come to realize they are going to have to compete with one another for their fathers love as he addresses his power will only be considered shared to the daughter that loves him the most. While the daughters act as if they are competing they are really scheming so they can have all the power and control. I call it ‘fake love’ because they express their love for him as if they really love him for who he is when really all they seek is his power.

Situations like these still happen to this day! There are people out there that don’t want to work for anything so there plan in life is to lean on someone else and rely on them for a fit survival. If this is your mindset you better hope you are a likable person because otherwise you are going to have to work for it yourself and who knows how that’s gonna go. For example, if the daughters cut ties with their father while he still had power because he refused to give them everything, and they never married anyone, then they would be homeless or working a job miserably as they were never taught the value of hard work. It is important to look out for yourself because when it comes down to it no one cares about you except for yourself. So this so called ‘fake love’ can absolutely destroy you because you have no work ethic instilled in you to do anything and once you are on your own you are like a chicken with it’s head cut off.

Storm of Reform

One of the most interesting aspects of William Shakespeare’s play King Lear is Lear’s response to losing his land and power to his two daughters Regan and Goneril. This power shift ultimately affects Lear’s character as a whole in a major way. We begin to see such character developments emerge when Lear is forced into the storm.

At the start of the play, being king is such a huge part of Lear’s identity that he believes that he commands respect and authority just by being who he is. Goneril and Regan flatter Lear with flashy complements and seemingly genuine professions of love to Lear and as a result get him to give up his land holdings to them. Cordelia refuses to partake in such “fake” behavior and is banished from the kingdom. At this point in time, Lear believes that Goneril and Regan love him the most because of their words, but soon realizes otherwise.

After giving up his power, Lear continues to act as though he is king but quickly notices that he no longer commands the same level of respect and authority as before. Goneril and Regan begin treating their father poorly and eventually end up kicking him out into a brutal storm. It is clear that Goneril and Regan’s praise of Lear was only a means of gaining power for themselves.

While in the storm, and in the shelter, Lear is forced to reflect and face the consequences of his daughters’ betrayal along with his own conflicting emotions. It is here where Lear learns the most about himself before he “goes mad”. Not only does he realize that people will do anything for power but he also realizes that only those who are truly loyal (for instance Kent) will continue to respect you even after power is lost. Lear begins to see clearly through Goneril and Regan’s lies and begins to see the truth in Cordelia’s words as well. Lear is filled with sorrow and regrets banishing someone who was truly loyal to him.

Lear also begins to regret the actions he took as king (or lack thereof) while in the storm. While standing outside in the pouring rain Lear exclaims:

“Poor naked wretches, wheresoe’er you are,
That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm,
How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides,
Your looped and windowed raggedness defend
you
From seasons such as these? O, I have ta’en
Too little care of this. Take physic, pomp.
Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel,
That thou may’st shake the superflux to them
And show the heavens more just”(Act 3, Scene 4, Lines 32 – 41).

In this excerpt, Lear expresses his empathy towards the poor and homeless people of his former kingdom. He ponders how the homeless are able to survive in such conditions (like the storm), with no fat or good clothes to keep them warm. Lear begins to see first hand the unfair distribution of wealth. He becomes both angry and sad and regrets not doing anything to fix this wealth distribution issue when he was king. This demonstrates Lear’s growth as a character because it shows that Lear is no longer only concerned only for himself but is now able to empathize and care for others’ well beings as well.

Through his daughters’ betrayal and the loss of his land and power Lear is able to gain more knowledge about himself and overall become a better human being as a result.

Is King Lear Meaningless?

Throughout King Lear, Shakespeare writes with a very somber attitude towards life and even paints a picture that life may very well be meaningless. So far this play has shown no sort of patterns or morals about anything regarding peoples happiness, success, or lives. Whether evil or good, some characters die and others thrive.

This idea is shown through the injustices and randomness throughout the play. Karma doesn’t really exist in this play in the sense that bad actions are not met with bad repercussions and good actions are not met with good actions. An example of this is seen in one of the first scenes of the play. When all of Lear’s daughters are telling him how much they love him, in very exaggerated and untrue ways, Cordelia is the only one to be honest with Lear and with herself. Her actions result in Lear essentially kicking her out and saying he doesn’t love her anymore. On top of that, Cordelia randomly dies at the end of the play. I don’t know what lesson that could be showing other than that life makes no sense. Another example is the power imbalance that Lear has over the people. The play presents the ideas that people in power can be unintelligent, and corrupt and remain in power, and people that are honest get punished while people that lie get praised. All in all this play sticks strongly to an idea that life is unfair, unruly, and unpredictable.

I’m gonna leave her a kingdom she can’t refuse

***Spoilers for The Godfather trilogy, although if you haven’t seen it yet you should stop reading anyway and go watch it***

It’s probably due to the fact that movie theaters across the nation are shut down that the Francis Ford Coppola’s new release of The Godfather: Part III did not receive much attention. Despite being released on a momentous occasion — the 30th anniversary of the original film — and receiving much higher accolades then the original release, the mafia epic that once gripped the minds of the American public seems to have remained dormant in the public consciousness. Nevertheless, the re-edit was not released without recognition, and even The New York Times felt that, perhaps out of respect of the Hollywood classic, the edit disserved some consideration.

Specifically, an article, penned by NYT culture reporter Dave Itzkoff, opens thusly:

In the final scene of “The Godfather Part III,” Michael Corleone, the aged protagonist of this epic crime drama, is left in solitude to contemplate his sins, gripped with guilt over actions that have devastated his family and the knowledge that he cannot change what he has done.

Sound familiar?

In case a retiring monarch throwing a kingdom, a daughter dying in her fathers arms, or the title The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone weren’t enough of a tip off, Coppola himself was the first to draw a connection between the two works. But even before the third film, the ghost of Shakespeare in general, and King Lear specifically, haunted the immortal cinematic masterpieces that make up The Godfather Tribology. Through the winding yet gripping tail, Coppola presents the audience with the original Don Corleone, forced to step down before his time, and with three sons in a crisis of succession. Eventually, the outsider — who tried to give up the family trade for a standard American life — is revealed as the most natural heir. The similarities between the second Don Corleone and Cordelia extend far beyond the similarity of their names.

Coppola was not the only famous filmmaker to incorporate ideas from Shakespeare into his work. The kingly position of The Bard in the western literary cannon is symptomatic of not only his genius, but also of the universal truth of the stories he spun. Romeo and Juliet not only tell the story of two households both alike in dignity but also that of two competing factions on the streets of New York. Anybody who’s dealt with politicians, bosses, teachers, parents, or others in positions of power has met their fair share of King Lears, Lady Macbeths, and King Oberons. Shakespeare’s plays are immortal because they are perfect encapsulations of immortal stories. So it’s no wonder that the pillars of the American Cinematic Pantheon are built out of marble carved from King Lear.

Queen O’er King

In Act IV Scene III, Kent and the Gentleman converse over Cordelia and her reaction to Kent’s letters to an extent that one might think both men were completely infatuated with her. Before this moment, The Tragedy of King Lear consistently demonized and dehumanized the women of the play. So to have a scene completely devoted to praising and complimenting a women is an extremely significant moment. The Gentleman notes how Cordelia was a, “queen/Over her passion, who, most rebel-like,/Fought to be king o’er her” (4.3.15-17). This control that Cordelia showed over her own emotions emanated strength and patience to all onliikers including the Gentleman. In juxtaposition to her sisters, Goneril and Regan, who constantly loose their tempers, make rash decisions, and are driven by greed, Cordelia couldn’t have been a better daughter to Lear and Queen of France. After enduring such a humiliating disowning from her father, this scene reminds the readers of how compassionate, wise, and truly loving Cordelia is. This moment also affirms that women in power can achieve success and make great leaders, as long as they don’t tie anyone to the stalks all night or order the gouging out of anyone’s eyes.

King Lear | Daughters of the king, King lear, Three daughters

Women of King Lear

William Shakepeare’s King Lear engages the theme of loyalty as it is shown in two totally different ways. After King Lear asks his daughters to voice their love for him, Cordelia voices her honest opinion while Regan and Goneril play with Lear’s feeling. In Act 1 Scene 1, Cordelia says “Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave my heart into my mouth. I love your Majesty according to my bond, no more nor less.” Blinded by his “love” for Goneril and Regan, King Lear is baffled from the answer he gets from Cordelia. In order for King Lear to understand true affection, he has to reach rock bottom and have everything taken from him in order to realize what’s most important in his life.

In Act 3 Scene 7, it isn’t King Lear who gets plotted against, but rather Gloucester. Although the letter to plot the good hearted Edgar happens earlier, Gloucester is about to get his eyes plucked out and as a called to rescue he calls for the evil Edmund. Gloucester is told that it was Edmund that betrayed him and as a result Gloucester says “O my follies! Then Edgar was abused. Kind gods, forgive me that, and prosper him!” Gloucester has realized what a fool he was and made the same mistake that King Lear made; not going up to their child and getting the real truth, rather assuming. 

After King Lear has lost everything he begins to realize who was actually important in his life. In Act 4 Scene 7 Cordelia and King Lear are reunited and Lear says to Cordelia “If you have poison for me, I will drink it. I know you do not love me, for your sisters Have, as I do remember, done me wrong. You have some cause; they have not.” Lear realizes all along that it was Cordelia who showed her true affection that night in the castle and that she didn’t want any personal gain from him. King Lear realizes how important Cordelia is to his life and that he never wants to leave her now, even after all the wrong that he has done. 

Did Shakespeare predict US politics?

Although intended for live performances, the archaic writings of Shakespeare are immortalized through universal themes of the human experience. Shakespeare’s King Lear is one of such plays. In King Lear, there is a constant struggle between those who possess and desire power, which  results in the suffering of people on both sides, even the innocent. Currently, this theme plays out in US politics. The dueling powerhouses are the Republican and Democratic parties. The means which they use to overpower one another creates victims out of those around them. They prioritize their supporters and slander those who identify with their opposition.

Prioritizing supporters over non-supporters’ livelihoods:

The reason Lear’s daughters, Goneril and Regan, take away Lear’s knights and servants, is because it disarms him of his power, with which he mattered. After unarming Lear, the daughters banish and leave him with nothing and no one. This is advantageous for the sisters since there is now no threat to their reign, and because they no longer have to deal with Lear, who they did not care about. Similarly, parties decisively target populations to ensure votes. Both parties put so much effort into campaigning in swing states, where votes aren’t guaranteed. The parties’ vessels, politicians, woo their audience with an image of empathy and care. On the other hand, unless prompted – untrendy, voiceless, and uncared for groups are constantly overlooked, especially when they support the parties opponent. A party wouldn’t want to give people resources who they deemed undeserving or simply don’t care about. Also, sometimes politicians neglect groups because they don’t see any advantage in helping them.

Slandering opposition: 

The mistreatment of ‘opposition’ in the USA’s social community is asserted by standardized slandering of the ‘other’. Rhetoric is extremely influential, as such it is often used to possess power. Considering both parties’ ambitions, it is unavoidable for them to not weaponize rhetoric. They insult each other by portraying one another as stupid and evil which negatively shapes their followers image of the targeted group. It generates hate and fear, which can and has been used against one another. It was easy for Lear’s own daughters to dispose of him when they found him old and crazy. Edmund deceived Edgar and Gloucester which turned them against each other, even when both had done nothing bad to one another in person. Similarly, the toxic fumes and gossips that sides spawn, creates an image of a threat, which one has never met.

People make sacrifices to maintain power. The means which they utilize way too often harm those around them. But as long as these people have their servants and knights, they will not stop.

Comparisons within King Lear

The characters of woman within King Lear are portrayed as inferior and animal like. Whenever a woman character is brought up throughout the play they always are put in the situation of the bad guy or the one that did something wrong. This play shows very little if any respect for woman and views as completely inferior humans compared to men, the play even compares their actions to those of an animal. The reason being compared to an animal is so disrespectful is because animals are seen as wild and don’t have a grounding point and that animals don’t have the same power as humans. This leads into power and how little Lear trust woman or his daughters with the power of the kingdom. This also signifies that woman can not hold the same levels of power as men because they are inferior. Also Lear almost views woman materialistic during the beginning of the play when him and Cordelia have a fight about how she should love him more than she does. Lear wants Cordelia to love her father more than a daughter should love their father, but this is extremely weird and makes Lear look like a complete idiot.

Power is a huge theme throughout the whole play. There is always constant drama and disagreements about the power of the kingdom throughout the play. Now Power can mean a lot of different things and I feel like almost everyone in the play thinks that they have more power than they really do. So how do you quantify power? Power is handed from one person to the next throughout the play but does that really mean that they do have that much power?

This is unrelated to power and how woman are treated in the play but the way in which characters that are in disguise is used multiple times throughout the play is very interesting to me. It gives that extra spice to the play.

We Dismantle Patriarchy Over Here

While reading King Lear I was taken aback with the blatant misogyny in the book. Although in someways society has dismantle some bits of the patriarchy there is still a long way to go. The same concepts in King Lear that women are fragile,inferior, and too emotional are still used today. Like in the book while the Gentleman was describing Cordelia’s reaction when receiving the letter he said,” Her delicate cheek. It seemed she was a queen-Over her passion, who, most rebel-like,-fought to be king o’er her” (Act 4, Scene 3, Lines 14-17). Having emotions and being delicate are human traits that we all have. The interesting observation that I made about how patriarchy/ misogyny works it that it gets internalized by some women so much as if its in their subconscious. While Goneril was talking about Edmund she believes he is a real man she said,”[O, the difference of man and man!]-To thee a woman’s services are due”(Act 4, Scene 2, Lines 33-34). Goneril kinds of insinuates that women owe men something which is not true, women do not owe anybody anything. I see some women actively working to dismantle the patriarchy/ misogyny, while others believe that they are here to be in service for men or that they are weaker gender it gets to the point where they are constantly seeking “male validation” and constantly concerned with how men will perceive them instead of and more importantly how they perceive themselves. The cultural shift that took place in Gen Z (I know cultural shift sounds corny but its true) is amazing I see many women in Gen Z not trying to please men, fit in the gender roles, and not engaging in “pick me” behavior. I think that’s a truly powerful powerful place to be- to march to the beat of your own drum and not be defined by what others/ society says. Like I said before we have a long way to go with dismantling the patriarchy that has been heavily ingrained but ways to make sure that your not apart of problem could be checking your own biases continuously (no matter how progressive you think you are/ how much you fight for women’s issues). Of course men must be participants in dismantling the patriarchy by recognizing their privilege, educating themselves, continuously actively working against the patriarchy.

Seeing Through The Smoke and Mirrors

In class we’ve talked a little about the motif of sight and blindness. The meta-performance of the onion that is King Lear has a way of veiling motivations behind several layers of storytelling. We, as the audience, have the unique ability to peel back and examine each layer to understand the whole. The fundamental question is why are there so many layers, and what truth lies at the center?

The many narratives and manipulations aren’t pointless complications to confuse the audience. At first glance, the motivations to conceal true identity, intent, and such may seem like they come from a place of selfish want. We do see this in characters like Edmund, Goneril, and Regan. Their greed and lust for power, control, and legitimacy drive their performances. However, we find more noble characters such as Edgar or Kent staging performances, but doing so for the benefit of others. Therefore, we must rule out the purpose of these layers as purely a way to conceal bad faith actions. Instead, let us consider the possibility that these narrative layers best serve to draw us further into the story, expanding it and pulling us deeper and closer to its intended meaning.

Still, if there is one all-encompassing truth to the story of King Lear, I don’t know it. It seems a story with many layers must also contain many themes. To disregard all other meanings and choose one would be to rob the story of its complexity and Shakespeare’s craftsmanship. That said, one of the driving motifs in the story is finding sight in blindness, or reason in madness, which really isn’t much different. Gloucester only understands the truth about his sons after he has been blinded for his blindness. Likewise, through Lear’s madness his eyes are opened to poverty, justice and the lack of it, who actually loved and didn’t love him, and more. Witnessing these revelations should hopefully prime us as the audience to be willing to accept truths from where we least expect them. Our modern society is plagued with misinformation, false stories and manipulations, and much of it is spread with truly malicious intent. But in an age of misinformation, King Lear invites us to peel back these layers, to find reason in the madness, and hopefully to emerge a little wiser from it.

Power in Society

Everywhere you go, there is going to be an imbalance in power. This is the way society has been constructed from day one. Tensions are created between different ethnicity’s and genders based on individuals getting the false sense that they are somehow “better than others” based on them having more power. In the play, we see how the power Lear has is immense, but easily thrown away. His own daughter stole the throne from him and take it as theirs. Power causes a great divide, because people will often do anything the can to obtain it.

Power has only increased for the people that posses it as time has gone on. With technology being such a prominent facet in our everyday lives, the power you have can seem bigger than ever with the ability to reach countless people. Too often, however, power is used in the wrong way. Goneril and Regan loved the power Lear had more than him himself. Because of this, they stole the thrown from him. Being someone in power has its positives and negatives in society. Power can easily be abused, and those not in as much power could easily abuse the power of others. Needless to say, power creates a lot of issues in modern day society, and in King Lear.

Expectations are Often Blind of Reality’s Likely Course

As seen in Act 1, scene 1, of Shakespeare’s King Lear, Lear intends to divide his kingdom amongst his daughters. It is inferred in this scene that King Lear expects his power will stay dominant over the kingdom despite the decision to give it all up. Clearly, Lear has been delusional from his previous safe and non-problematic rule enough to think that he will still hold power when he has chosen to give up his rule. However, giving up his power was not the cause of his loss of power, but it was who he gave it up to that destroyed him.

In my true heat
I find she names my very deed of love;
Only she comes too short
– (Regan, Act 1, Scene 1)

Regan and Goneril profess their “love” for King Lear saying that words can’t even describe their love, despite saying previously that words cannot describe how much they love their father. Lear turns a blind eye to these obviously exaggerated and distorted comments for the sake of his expectations. Instead of seeing what is clearly happening right in front of him (Goneril and Regan sucking up to their father in order to get the lands), Lear does not care as he believes that whatever he expects to happen, will happen. This is the downfall of Lear, and Shakespeare makes it a theme in the play. People in power often think that whatever they think is law, so how could any outcome that they didn’t want happen? That is the mindset of people like King Lear and the sisters until they too have suffered as the commons do. Perspective is one thing that almost never coexists with power.

Progression of Lear

Throughout Shakespeare’s play King Lear, we see Lear fall through many stages of his reign. In the beginning, he is power hungry and seeks love and attention from his daughters. Lear holds power above others in the play but as it goes on, we witness his downfall. After the betrayal of his daughters he is left powerless and alone, aside from the fool. In a search to regain his power and influence, Lear is exposed to the realities of common life. He sees peasants and servants, he witnesses their lives outside of his kingdom. He is astounded by how little they have and how he had never noticed it before. This is when Lear experiences a turning point and possible “attitude adjustment”. We see an empathetic and guilty side of Lear that had yet to be exposed. From this we will this his progression as the play moves forward and how he will utilize these eye-opening experiences.

The Corruption of Power

One of the most common desires is the one for power, yet seldom wonder about the effects it would bring. If a person were to obtain a large amount of power, whether it be the head of a kingdom or the leader of a family, how would they change? How hard would they fight to maintain their status? What would happen to them if they lost their power? Shakespeare’s dramatic play “King Lear” is a showcase of what power truly does to a person.

At the start of the play, Lear is a man who obsesses over his role as the King of England. While dividing up his land as he steps down, his two older daughters shower him in false flattery in an attempt to receive as much as possible from their father. His other daughter Cordelia, however, rejects his land, stating that she only wants his love. Lear rejects her honest compassion, preferring the attention from his other daughters. He is too flattered by the admiration from Reagan and Goneril to realize that it was false. His focus on appearance and power distracts him from his duties.

Lear’s obsession with appearance comes to a halt following his abdication. Being oblivious to his daughters’ deceit, he hoped to maintain his status without the title. However, he had heard that his servant, Oswald, had been sent away by Goneril. Lear arrives to Regan’s castles and details the pain that Goneril has caused him, but Regan sides with her sister. She also refuses to host him at her castle, as she sees her father as just a foolish old man. Lear becomes enraged at her actions, and he curses his daughters for their bad deeds. He proclaims that man is different from beast when stripped of his luxuries.

Lear, who was once the King of England, has been reduced a peasant that a king would most likely ignore. He was blinded by the flattery that he had received, as it reminded him of his status as a powerful king and loving father. His daughters then show their true intent, revealing their true intentions. Had he followed Cordelia and her honest love, he would have most likely been treated as he indented. His quest to maintain power was the cause of its removal.

Family Isn’t A Word … It’s A Blank Verse

Comparing Broken Family In King Lear And The Royal Tenenbaums

If King Lear were set in a manicured shoebox set and filmed in a series of whip pans and slow motion montages, it could quite easily be Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums. In fact, if King Lear were staged as a playbook within a film narrated by Alec Baldwin – it would be The Royal Tenenbaums.

T R A I L E R

The Royal Tenenbaums was Wes Anderson’s third film, and established his cinematic style as a integral to the modern cinematographic cannon. His previous two films, Bottle Rocket and Rushmore maintained a sense of obscurity and quaintness. Although later garnering a ‘cult classic’ (particularly Rushmore) reputation, The Royal Tenenbaums marked Anderson’s mainstream debut. The film was nominated for an Oscar in ‘best screenplay,’ and Gene Hackman’s tragic, Lear-like performance scored him a Golden Globe as Best Performance of an Actor.

The Royal Tenenbaums was Wes Anderson’s third film, and established his cinematic style as a integral to the modern cinematographic cannon. His previous two films, Bottle Rocket and Rushmore maintained a sense of obscurity and quaintness. Although later garnering a ‘cult classic’ (particularly Rushmore) reputation, The Royal Tenenbaums marked Anderson’s mainstream debut. The film was nominated for an Oscar in ‘best screenplay,’ and Gene Hackman’s tragic, Lear-like performance scored him a Golden Globe as Best Performance of an Actor.

The Royal Tenenbaums chronicle the comical tragedy of the Tenenbaum family’s downfall (and eventual redemption). Dysfunctionality, disappointment, and disaster plague Anderson’s whimsical, fictional Tenenbaum family and Lear’s family. In fact the archetypes within each story almost perfectly mirror each other.

Image result for pagoda royal tenenbaums

Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman) as King Lear: The dysfunctional father
Chas Tenenbaum (Ben Stiller) as Goneril: The bitter eldest child
Margot Tenenbaum (Gwyneth Paltrow) as Reagan: The neglected middle child
Raleigh St. Clair (Bill Murray) as Duke of Cornwall: The neglected middle child’s husband
Richie Tenenbaum as Cordelia: The favored, spoiled youngest child who least resents the dysfunctional father
Eli Cash as Fool: The comic relief and honest confidant
Pagoda as Kent: The dysfunctional father’s loyal servant

In Wes Anderson’s twee and warmly tinted world, a malingering Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman) desperately seeks familial redemption after abandoning his wife and children. His three children: Chas (Ben Stiller), Richie (Luke Wilson), and Margot (Gwenyth Paltrow) Tenenbaum were all once child prodigies who quickly fall into a post fame depression fueled by their fractured family. Familial complications run deep amongst the Tenenbaums, but Royal is clearly the primary antagonist and catalyst of the family’s demise. Similar to Lear, he drives his children away with his bluntness, insensitivity, and pompousness. Detached from his children for nearly two decades, Royal Tenenbaum plans on redeeming himself as a father and husband after finding out that his wife, Etheline Tenenbaum (Anjelica Huston) is engaged to Henry Sherman (Danny Glover). In a desperate attempt to insert himself into their lives, Royal fakes a terminal illness to garner their sympathy. Comparable to the filial rejection Lear faces, Royal’s children initially reject his apologizes and offer him little sympathy. Like Cordelia, Chas is preferentially treated over his other siblings (who were left to the wayside), and is therefore the most eager to forgive and accept his rejected father. Royal is particularly hurt by this, one could even venture to say that “[it is] sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is/to have a thankless [Chas]” (1.4.301-302). Furthermore, the eldest children in both Lear and Royal’s families are the most resentful and first to denounce their father. The two stories end in bittersweet loss, inevitably anticipated by the audience. Though Royal initially fakes his malignant illness, he dies at the age of 68 from a heart attack proceeding Richie’s traumatic suicide attempt. Comparably, Lear ultimately meets his demise after mourning the death of his youngest, most prized daughter, Cordelia. In a way, the two tragic patriarchs both die realizing they came back to their families all too late.

The Royal Tenenbaums and King Lear both use ironic humor to enhance the tragic complexity of their characters. Uncoincidentally, both King Lear and The Royal Tenenbaums have been referred to as great ‘tragicomedies.’ They both strategically balance the devastating with the comical, adding to the bittersweetness of each piece. Anderson and Shakespeare succeed in intermingling this dry and crooked humor with gory tragedy. Richie’s bloody suicide attempt set to Elliott Smith’s “Needle in the Hay” dramatically contrasts his trickling blood with the cold, blue atmosphere of the family bathroom. This parallels the macabre of Goneril’s bloody suicide and Gloucester’s gruesome blinding.

The clear difference between The Royal Tenenbaums and King Lear is their characterization of ‘good’ and ‘evil.’ The original Shakespearean play draws a clear distinction between purity and wickedness. The Royal Tenenbaums blurs this division, rendering each Tenenbaum family member as heart wrenching, yet lovable in their flaws. This isn’t to say that the characters in King Lear aren’t complex or layered. Edmund as an antagonist evokes a particular empathy from the audience, similar to the way viewers warm to see past Royal’s brash callousness. Despite Edmund’s suffering and slight redemption, he can still be easily distinguished as evil. Goneril and Reagan embody evil, yet Chas and Margot are in no way overtly cruel. Their distance and frustration clearly stems from childhood trauma, and although they are distrustful of their father they don’t actively seek to harm him (except for Chas’ snide verbal jabs). Although Chas is the kindest of the three Tenenbaum children, he is in no way a perfect embodiment of goodness like Cordelia. Though King Lear effectively develops complex villains, it ultimately dramatically exaggerates the line between good and bad. The Royal Tenenbaums is a more realistic portrayal of familial dysfunction, and the ending is significantly less theatrical. Royal achieves a palpable and heartwarming level of redemption with his entire family, dying with less remorse than Lear. Royal certainly “[spoke] what [he] [felt]/not what [he] ought to say” (5.3.393).

Losing Lear

In Shakespeare’s play King Lear, the main character King Lear struggles to find his identity. At the beginning of the novel, we see King Lear as a powerful ruler over his kingdom. As the story progresses Lear begins to lose his grasp on his power and this causes his perspective to shift. Previously, Lear lacked the understanding of his own power and class, but as he begins to lose the respect of others, only the Fool is left to support him. The Fool serves as an opportunity for Lear to see someone of a different class as a human and therefore acknowledge the parallels between himself and those of a lower class. By seeing these parallels, Lear realizes the inequality and unfairness he has promoted during his reign.

Unwritten Rulebook

When Cordelia enters in Act 4 scene 4 she is described as an angel from her true love for her family, unlike her sisters, to then her immesuarable physical beauty. She is described not as a hero coming back to a family ruined by lust for power and amount of deaths but as a beakon off hope. This gentle approach to the view of a women comes from the universal view of women being family women who are often the symbol of good. Not as the hero or brave soilder that men often portray who can more easily accepted in societies eyes as the antagonist. These biases are further being adressed and called out from the new era for equality for all, breaking down gender roles in society. Although this memo of change seems to not have reached some like the Millenials and Boomers. As all ages of women still learn and are scolded based on the faults of males. Such as their choice of clothing and that relation to their worth as people and status to others.

Those gender bias can be further seen earlier in Act 4, in scene 2 as Goneril is seenas evil and selfish as she has taken over ‘Albanys army.’ They insult each other calling each other putrid names and Albany states he would punch her now but he will not, as its implied she is a woman. Albany is reinforcing the social rules he’s been taught sparing the kind lady despite her cruel actions. Is it possible to get rid of these ‘unwritten rules’ or can it not be changed because these motifs have been perpetuated and stay intact throughout centuries. I have hope that Gen X will change the outlook and the future will lead to a non gender biased way of life, creating a accepting and unperpetuated life.

Corruption in Power

The journey to power is corrupting but once power is gained, loyalty is lost and deceit takes its course. Think about Lear and his daughters. They lied about the amount of love they had for him just to obtain power. He had nothing but love for his daughters. When they obtained the power they then took his remaining authority and his rights. This corruption eventually led to Lear’s death. Corruption today ties back to our government. Power has responsibilities that challenges ones integrity and morality. Without loyalty power remains corrupt.

What Defines Us?

In King Lear, it is shown that Lear’s most defining characteristic is the fact that he is a powerful king. However, what else do we know about him as a character? Do we associate his character more than his influence?

Many people today associate powerful people with traits like intelligence, success, and devotion. However, the person could in reality embody none of those traits at all. We only associate them with those traits because of their position. A big name CEO can be praised all over the internet for their hard work, but could have had all of the resources to become powerful. While, someone in a position of power would receive no praise at all, simply because of their lack of power and influence. They would get told to “pick up themselves from their bootstraps” or to simply “work harder” when in reality, no matter how hard they worked, they would never achieve the same level of “success” as others in power.

Lear, forcibly gets to understand what power truly was and how influential it was to his image and his character. He is no more than his title, has no other defining character traits, and essentially is nothing without what he had. Thus, leading him to spiral into insanity. What do we do without identity?