King Lear in Modern Politics

King Lear contains many motifs and examples that can be seen in politics today. This makes me marvel at how Shakespeare incorporated elements of leadership and politics that are still relevant almost 500 years later.

One major example of this correlation can be seen in President Trump’s “reign,” in which he had some of the same attitudes and leadership strategies as King Lear. For example, both Lear and Trump tried to fix all problems on their own instead of relying on others for help and advice. Lear does not really listen to those around him, as he thinks that because he is the King, he is in charge, and only his ideas are the acceptable ones.

Another example of King Lear coming to life in politics today can be seen through the President’s cabinet. In King Lear, his daughters Goneril and Reagan both praise King Lear, telling him how much they love him, and how devoted to him they are. However, it becomes clear that his daughters do not truly love him, but just wanted the power and land that their father could give them. The President’s cabinet is a group of people that the president surrounds himself with to give him advice and handle more specific problems. The idea is to have some people that do not have the same viewpoints as you, so that you have a variety of viewpoints to make the best decision for the country. Nowadays, however, it has become increasingly polarized, and the cabinet is often filled with people that have the same viewpoints as the President. During Trump’s presidency, I remember reading an article about how Trump fired one of his cabinet members for something that he said against Trump. This seems very similar to Lear kicking Cordelia out for not professing her love to him.

While it is clear that any president is not as bad as King Lear, and not nearly as crazy, the correlations between Lear and politics today do make me think about practices in politics, and the way that people have been conditioned to respond to ideas they do not agree with. This idea of hearing different viewpoints is extremely important in today’s culture, as social media has made it so people only hear ideas that they agree with, creating an even greater political divide. By keeping in mind the Tragedy of King Lear, we can avoid these problems and not fall down the rabbit hole that Shakespeare prophesied.

The Power-Love Dichotomy

In line 289 of Act IV, Scene vi of King Lear, as Edgar reads the letter from Goneril to Edmund plotting to kill Albany, Edgar laments that “To know our enemies’ minds, we rip their hearts” — which is to say, in order to maintain power for himself and his father and prevent Edmund from gaining power, Edgar had to sacrifice his loyalty and love for Edmund. This is one of the most important topics of King Lear: when it is worth it to sacrifice love for power, and when it is worth it to sacrifice power for love. I’ve color-coded these two sides of the Power-Love Dichotomy to make it easier to keep track of the examples listed below:

  • In Act I, Lear appears to sacrifice his power in search of his daughters’ love as he splits his land between them; yet, later in Act II, Lear sacrifices the love of Regan and Goneril because he wished to maintain his own sense of power through the housing of his 100 supporters.
  • At the end of Act III, Regan sacrifices her husband (by refusing to save him from his stab wound, as portrayed in the film) in order to take over his power
  • …however, Regan and Goneril feud with each other — and ultimately kill each other, in Act V — for the love of Edmund, each willing to sacrifice their own power for his love; in fact, Regan even tells Edmund, “Take thou my soldiers, prisoners, patrimony. / Dispose of them, of me; the walls is thine” (V.iii.89-90), effectively pledging to surrender her entire land and power to Edmund in exchange for his love.
  • Cordelia, on the other hand, contrasts with her sisters’ initial prioritization of individual power over love for Lear — in Act IV, Scene vii, Cordelia tells Lear “you must not kneel” (IV.vii.67), showing how she is willing to sacrifice her power over Lear solely because of her love for her father. Lear appears to mirror this sacrifice of power for love as well as he rejects Cordelia’s submission to his own authority: “When thou dost ask me blessing, I’ll kneel down / And ask of thee forgiveness” (V.iii.11-12)
  • At the end of the play, Albany proposes that he and all others who still have power would give it all up and give Lear all of the power of the kingdom until his death, out of a combination of regret, guilt, and most relevantly to this analysis, love: “we will resign / During the life of this old Majesty, / To him our absolute power” (V.iii.362-364)

Out of curiosity — can you all think of any other examples of the Power-Love Dichotomy in King Lear?

Where’d the Fool Go?

In Shakespeare’s King Lear, The Fool is an important character who helps guide Lear through his loss of power and gives him important advice along the way, along with offering comedic relief. That being said, I, along with many other readers, are likely left wondering where The Fool went for acts 4 and 5.

The Fool was extremely loyal and honest to Lear, and stayed by his side throughout his downfall, which is more than many did. The Fool’s role was important, as his honesty likely kept Lear the little sanity he had, saying things such as “Thou hast little wit in thy bald crown when thou gavest thy golden one away” (I.IV.159-160) and “He’s mad that trusts in the tameness of a wolf, a horse’s health, a boy’s love, or a whore’s oath (III.VI.18-19)”. Lear let nearly no one talk back to him, with The Fool being an important exception, as he did it in a comedic manner. The Fool’s honest advice displays his loyalty to Lear, which is partly what makes his disappearance even more mysterious.

The last time The Fool was seen was in Act 3 Scene 6, when Lear is still in the process of going mad and is causing trouble for Kent, Edgar, and The Fool. This makes The Fools disappearance even more strange, as he cares deeply for Lear, and left when Lear needed him most. He dealt with Lear’s madness before, and knew how to handle it, so his sudden disappearance seems a little strange. The Fool doesn’t say anything about where or what he is going to do, which is what truly makes this a mystery. The last line he says is “And I’ll go to bed at noon”(III.vi.90). This line doesn’t exactly say what The Fool is going to, but it hints at the idea that he will die in some way, potentially suicide. This is never proved, however, and Shakespeare’s lack of stage directions builds into this mystery about what happens to The Fool, as it says nothing about what he actually does in that scene.

Finally, in the end, Lear casually mentions “And my poor fool is hanged”(V.iii.369). This line could’ve been interpreted to meaning Cordelia, as she was hanged recently, and calling her his “fool” could’ve been as a sign of endearment to her. On top of that, “fool” isn’t capitalized as the character The Fool’s name had been throughout the entire play, so that also points toward the idea that Lear was referring to someone else. However, it does go along with the fact that The Fool ominously hinted towards his death, and it would explain his absence in Acts 4 and 5, as he was loyal to Lear, and it doesn’t make sense that he would abandon Lear when Lear needed him most.

Overall, The Fool is loyal to Lear, and is one of the few characters who actually cared for Lear and gave him honest advice when he could. The disappearance of The Fool is up to the reader’s interpretation, and, just for what it’s worth, I believe The Fool hanged himself.

Why, Kent, Why?

I don’t understand the Earl of Kent. In the first scene of Shakespeare’s King Lear, Kent is banished from the British kingdom for disagreeing with King Lear’s methods to split up his land among his daughters. He leaves with the line, “He’ll shape his old course in a country new” (I.i), referring to Lear imposing his old ways on a country he is giving away to his daughters.

Kent then returns disguised as Caius, with the sole purpose of serving the King, explaining “If thou canst serve where thou dost stand condemn’d, / So may it come, thy master, whom thou lovest, / Shall find thee full of labours” (I.iv). However, he then flips this on its head by challenging Goneril’s servant, Oswald, to a swordfight, when Oswald clearly is not interested in fighting (II.ii). This leads to Cornwall putting Kent in the stocks and the escalating of Lear’s rage. As a whole, Kent seems only to work to the King’s detriment, and in the few opportunities when he could have set the story straight and helped out, he does nothing. One of these such opportunities is when Lear arrives at Gloucester’s castle after the swordfight, Kent does nothing to help calm down Lear’s rage (II.iv).

Kent’s actions also remain completely unjustified. The tragedy still plays out as expected, Lear still goes mad, and while Kent does help reunite the King and Cordelia, it still does not explain what he did earlier in the play.

Parallels between Lear and Gloucester

In William Shakespeare’s King Lear, there are many parallels between Lear and Gloucester. Some significant and common occurrences in these parallels are the motifs of madness and blindness. 

Both Lear and Gloucester misjudge their children and make huge sacrifices in order to eventually gain clarity. Gloucester can’t see which of his sons is truly good and loyal until he’s lost his vision. Similarly, it isn’t until Lear loses his power, respect, and eventually his sanity that he discovers it was actually Cordelia who loved him and it was Goneril and Regan who were out to get him. 

There is a common irony in Lear and Gloucester’s storylines where they needed to lose their sight or mind to see or think clearly. It’s not until Lear and Gloucester lose physical clarity and coherence that they can both realize the mistakes and misjudgments they’ve made.

Additionally, Lear and Glocester mirror each other again just before each of their deaths. Just before Lear dies, his eyes stop working, and just before Gloucester dies, he wished that he’d go insane, thinking that would make dying easier. 

These similarities, common motifs, and parallel plots serve to emphasize how greed and mistrust are harmful to authority, respect, and family dynamics.

“The Taming of the Shrew”

Although Shakespeare often shows women with power, it’s typically in a very unflattering and misogynistic light. For example, in the Tragedy of King Lear, Goneril and Regan get their power from deception and ambition. The exact opposite values that men of power are supposed to show. Cordelia, the only honorable woman, ended up without a home and essentially forgotten about by her sisters and her father. 

Likewise, in the movie Ran by Akira Kurosawa, the women control the sons and get them to fight against their father. In one particular scene in the movie, Taro’s wife (Lady Kaede) is able to successfully convince him to take over the entire Ichimonji clan. Lady Kaede is the most prominent female character and while she has wonderful characteristics, like intelligence, her most powerful attributes seem to be the ones that allow her to fully run the kingdom down and create utter chaos. 

In both stories, the most powerful man, Hidetora and Lear, are treated sympathetically despite their actions and madness, while the women, with the exception of Cordelia, have few redeeming qualities. Also, both stories show the downfall of the kingdom when the women are given their first glance at power. In King Lear, it occurred when his daughter obtained their land, and in Ran, it happened when the sons got married and their wives started demanding things. 

Shakespeare often explores power and ambition in women in his works, such as: Hamlet, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, and King Lear, however, like “The Taming of the Shrew”, the depiction is often of a small, disagreeably, aggressive, sneaky character like a shrew.

Edmund is not evil

One of my favorite characters in King Lear was Edmund. Although he was one of the main antagonists in the play, there was a depth about his character that intrigued me. Edmund had grown up feeling illegitimate as a bastard and was part of his family but was also not a part of it. This caused a lot of confusion for Edmund and led to a lot of jealousy towards his brother. He became the villain as he tried to scheme and manipulate in order to gain power. But, unlike usual villains that are just straight out evil, Edward just wanted to fit in. He had always been treated differently and as less than his brother or any of the other “legitimate” sons. A theme throughout the play was power and how it can be obsessive and cause one to lose sight of what truly matters. Many characters like King Lear himself, Regan, Goneril, and Edmund, all began to lose sight of themselves and fell into the dangerous trap of power. What makes me sympathize the most with Edmund is that he had grown up without any power. He had been treated inferiorly and less than because of society’s views. Over time, this took a toll on him and he became this antagonist we see in many other pieces of literature that schemes and commits crimes in order to feed their selfish needs. But unlike Goneril and Regan, Edmund had strived for this power because he never had any, he was never treated as an equal, and he wanted to make a change in order to be seen as legitimate and worthy,

Edgar: Too Good for His Own Good?

In King Lear, it is hard to find a more honorable character than Edgar. Edgar, being Gloucester’s only legitimate son, had the ability to ignore his brother when he advised him to flee. But, like the good brother he was, he listened to the “illegitimate” Edmund. Edgar’s loyalty and trust were vital to the development of the plot of King Lear.

Edmund’s plan to gain power began with overthrowing his family. Edmund knew that he wouldn’t inherit anything from his father, since he wasn’t “pure” in blood. Edmund needed to somehow gain his brothers status. To do so, Edmund used Edgar’s loyalty against him. He convinced Edgar that he was banished, and turned his father against his brother. Edmund then had the power and influence to begin his attempted claim that lead him to contribute to the tragedy of King Lear. Without Edgar, Edmund would never have gotten past his father.

If another character was in Edgar’s shoes, such as Lear, Edmund would have never been trusted. Edgar is both a good character and a good person. He has the ability to look past the fact that his brother isn’t completely related to him, something many others could not look past at the time.

While Edgar’s banishment and his transformation into Poor Tom feel unjust at the time, Edgar gets his revenge at the end of the play when he takes down Edmund as the honorable Edgar. Most deaths at the end of the play feel justified, except for the death of Cordelia. As a reader, I was happy that besides Kent, at least one likeable character remained well at the end of the play. I liked that even while Edgar’s trust and devotion to his family almost cost him his life, he gets the revenge he is looking for.

From Power to Pain

King Lear is a play about tragedy and Lear himself experiences this in a way much worse than any other character. Lear makes his fatal flaw when he decides to split the kingdom off by how much his daughters love him and falls blind to the fake love to Regan and Goneril’s fake love and gives them all the land while not giving Cordelia any who is the one who truly loves him. Lear loses himself after he realized the wronging he has done and starts to go crazy. He even says in Act 1, “Does any here know me? This is not Lear . . . . Who is it that can tell me who I am?” showing he has lost himself and doesn’t know the man he is becoming because of his suffering. He doesn’t realize the wrong he has brought Cordelia until it is too late and asks for her forgiveness but it is too late for she has a sudden death. At this point the tragedy Lear has endued is too much for him and he dies of a broken heart. The tragedy that Lear has gone through is too much for him but it’s too late to do right and this makes him my favorite character because from all the things he did he wanted to do right.

Albany and Power

Throughout King Lear, there is a fight for power. Regan and Goneril become obsessed with gaining all the power that they can and using it to their benefit. Edmund also becomes power-hungry and betrays Gloucester and Edgar in order to rise in the ranks. In the beginning scene, Goneril and Regan express their love for Lear in order to gain land but they discard Lear as soon as they receive it. However, Albany is portrayed as being indecisive. While Goneril fights for power, Albany makes no moves to use his power for which Goneril often criticizes him.

During the second half of the play, Albany shows his lack of interest in power when he berates Goneril for being a bad daughter to Lear and comparing her to an animal. Albany further expresses his distaste for having power after the death of Goneril and Regan. “For us, we will resign, during the life of this old Majesty, to him our absolute power; you to your rights, with boot and such addition as your Honors have more merited” (V.iii.363-366). Albany wants to restore all of the power to Lear despite having the opportunity to have it all for himself. Albany continues to convey his dislike when he tells Edgar and Kent to “rule in this realm, and the gored state sustain” (V.iii.389). Albany remains dedicated to his morals by refusing to take the power from Lear as Goneril and Regan did. This goes against traditional gender roles as Albany can be described as a coward and Goneril is seen as the villain for stealing power. Albany becomes one of the only people left at the end of the play and is viewed to be a good person, almost saint-like. While Albany does not conform to traditional gender roles, he succeeds and gains power while acting with female stereotypes.

Edgar O’ Edgar

 Empathy perceived throughout the reading of King Lear to many different characters in many different scenes. However, the character who sparked the most empathy from me to become one of my favorite characters of the play would be Edgar. Edgar’s resilience spoke many languages to me throughout the novel while he was on stage and off stage. 

Edgar faced many challenges, however in my opinion the greatest challenge he had to overcome was dealing with the manipulation from his brother, who put him in a compromising position. Edmund forged his brother’s name into making Edgar the villain to his kingdom and his father. After Edgar was informed of what had been done to him, he went into the disguise of Poor Tom, where no one would notice him.  When Edgar had to learn the changes from being a Lord to a beggar, there were not only hard changes with losing the title, but Edgar learned how to live life without having much power to his name. Especially with these changes, Edgar grew to learn what it means to be resilient and how to continue on with his life, even though it might not be what he exactly wanted. 

The resilience that has sparked my interest in Edgar, really proved to be there when his father, Gloucester walked accidentally back into Edgar’s life. Edgar hid his true identity to protect his father from possible pain or sadness for his current situation and fully focused on Gloucester’s pain of being blinded. Gloucester even spoke of his son Edgar at times, and Edgar hid from spoiling who he truly was. The pain that Edgar went through was probably unbearable, and for that reason his resilience, to me, makes him my favorite character. 

Loyal to a World Lacking in it

In King Lear, Cordelia, Lear’s daughter, is banished as the result of her father’s misinterpretation of her loyalty. Right from the beginning scene of the play, Lear asks his daughters to make clear to him how much they loved him for pieces of the country’s land. As Regan and Goneril, his other daughters, expressed their false claims of love, Cordelia was troubled with how she would display her loyalty and fondness for her father. On Cordelia’s turn she insisted that she would not comply with her father’s demand as she explained that it was a deceitful method for her sisters to exploit their father’s compassion. She says, “I return those duties back as are right fit: Obey you, love you, and most honor you. Why have my sisters husbands if they say they love you all?” (I.I.106-110). She questions how her sisters are able to fully love Lear if they have husbands to love. Cordelia explains how she is able to completely give herself over to Lear as she has no one else to give herself too in contrast to her sisters who have husbands. Cordelia has an unconditional love for her father as she explains is greater than what her sisters can prove to him through words because she recognizes her sisters deceiving scheme. Loyalty is clearly shown in this first scene although Lear is not able to interpret it in a level headed manner which he later looks back upon and regrets.

Courageous Usurpers of Morals

Throughout King Lear by Shakespeare, class remains an ultimate heavy part of characters and the journeys they take. Lear goes through the storm and has a reflection on poor people and how they are supposed to fend for themselves in the storm (III.iv.30-38). This is a breach into the social structure the play originally constructs with Lear as the King and thus his daughters having mighty power in the kingdom with many servants. The most intriguing parts of the book however were the bold actions of those around these characters that were built up into such a high level of class that they appear at first untouchable. King Lear at the start of the play seems in control and then Kent goes against what he says and claims he is making a mistake with his harsh actions towards Cordelia (I.i). Kent being lower in status compared to Lear demonstrates yet another occasion where the shakiness of the status is portrayed as a good thing in the play when thought about carefully. The self-clarity Lear has in the storm from viewing a status perspective other than his own is positive and Kent speaking up for Cordelia when she received unwarranted rage is a good thing as well. 


One of the most shocking parts of King Lear that grab readers’ attention is in Act III scene viii was when a servant halts Cornwall from plucking out Gloucester’s other eye and tries to tell Cornwall that right now is the breaking point where he needs to stop. The servant and Cornwall physically battle in a sense of who is morally right while Cornwall fights purely out of rage that the servant has stood out against him despite their huge gap in status and the servant battles for the morale of not gouging someone’s eyes out. At first, readers think that the servant was not that important because of the fact that he dies but he wounds Cornwall which causes both of their deaths. Further, this comes as a shock that someone would even speak so openly out of turn while a person in power is torturing a supposed traitor is surprising. Then that the servant inflicts fatal damage can prove to support the idea that in the end, the people with good morals and who fight for their causes will be successful with their intentions. The servant wanted Cornwall to realize the consequences of his actions and get him to by physically making him weak and bringing him on to the afterlife. The power coming from this random servant in King Lear makes readers feel that sense of hopefulness that the morally strong people in the world can make a difference no matter what class they are in.

It’s a Man’s World

Shakespeare’s King Lear challenges the societal gender roles, which at the time of the play was considered controversial. In the first act of King Lear, he demands that each daughter prove their love and respect for him in order for them to receive part of his land. Two of the three daughters submit to his wishes and says reassuring things like ” Sir, I [Goneril] love you more than word can wield the matter” (I.i. 60) or “I find she names my very deed of love/only she comes too short”(I.i.78-79). As Lear gets sprinkled with compliments this strengthens his role as a powerful man as two women beg for something that belongs to him. Ironically, his daughter Goneril and Regan, those who graveled for his land, become a powerful force and leader in the hopes to betray their father. This is when the ideal gender roles are switched. While Lear loses power and his mind, his daughters become powerful. Goneril comes to the realization that Albany is not her ally and tells him “no more. the text is foolish” (IV.ii) then continues to call him a “milk – liveried man/ that bear’st a cheek for blows – a head for wrongs,” (IV.ii). In translation, Goneril is calling him a lying coward which in the eyes of society is greatly frowned upon. Although Goneril’s motives to betray her father was already frowned upon by members of the audience, her dominance and assertiveness to Albany, her own husband, was an act more surprising. Shakespeare’s response in the eyes of Albany was to call her the devil which some could argue that response of justified while others protest Albany’s attitude towards women in power.

Albany’s beliefs on women in power seem “old fashion,” when in reality his beliefs are more prevalent in society today as women become more and more involved in our government. Hillary Clinton made headlines, before she even ran for presidency, due to her lack of abilities to be “women like” when she served as the First Lady. When her husband served in office she received major backlash as she become the chair of different committees of public policy, which made her the most involved first lady ever. Hillary Clinton’s leadership and power was a shock to society so much so the White House made a campaign for Clinton to emphasize the more traditional traits of a first lady should be. This campaign gave society what they wanted to see, which was her in the kitchen and merrily hiding behind her husband. Hillary didn’t let this phase her as she ran for president in 2016 against Donald Trump who begin the nasty women campaign against Clinton. The constant set – back Clinton has faced strictly due to her gender is living evidence that our society has not yet reached a point of equilibrium.

“Ran” and “King Lear”

There is no doubt that Ran strongly resembles that of William Shakespeare’s King Lear. Both tales of betrayal involve rulers who relinquish their thrones and pass their power and land down to their offspring, causing two of the children to turn against them, while the third supports them in their old age. Whereas Ran’s Hidetora has three sons, King Lear has three daughters: Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia. Hidetora’s jealous sons are also more ruthless than Lear’s opposing daughters. Not surprisingly given their status, both Ran and Lear suffer from a good old-fashioned case of overzealous pride, and both banish anyone that disagrees with them. And of course, in typical Shakespearian fashion, both tales end with the death of the entire family.

The director of Ran, Akira Kurosawa, seems to portray King Lear in a form of Japanese drama intertwined with history. Although the film became heavily inspired by Shakespeare’s play, Kurosawa began using it only after he had started preparations for Ran, and from the portions that I watched, it is interesting to analyze the similarities and differences between the two.

To me, the most obvious difference between Ran and King Lear lies in the dialogue. Ran has almost none, while Lear is an example of poetic and dramatic use of the English language. While viewing the scene where Hidetora’s two sons physically attack him with the full force of their armies, it is clear that Ran’s plot development and artistically directed scenes help create a much more powerful film. This film also seems to be a lot more direct. Rather than the verbose speeches and poetry of King Lear, there is subtlety and interpretation rejected for battle scenes and unambiguous dialogue.

I think it would be very interesting to watch the full movie of Ran, but it is 2 hours and 42 minutes, which is just a little too long for me.

What wouldst thou do, old man?

Kent’s speech (I.i.161) in which he steps forward and openly protests Lear’s rash decisions represents some of Shakespeare’s most eloquent prose about loyalty, honesty and standing up for what’s right. Prior to this passage Kent is attempting to be gracious in his criticisms of Lear. When Lear asks him to be direct Kent shifts his tone, and does not hold back his opinion.

Lear:

The bow is bent and drawn. Make from the shaft.

Kent:

Let if fall rather, though the fork invade

The region of my heart.

Shakespeare continues an extended metaphor here. Lear asks Kent to be direct by getting out of the way of the “arrow” or the opinion he intends to express. By beginning with this Kent expresses his discontent in sharing Lear’s ignorance with him. He realizes the arrow must “fall” or the truth must be unleashed but saying it still hurts him greatly. There also seems to be another implied meaning in this exchange. Lear insists that Kent must get out of the way of the arrow, implying that Kent is shielding Lear from something he knows he does not want to hear. With close reading, we begin to understand the extent of Kent’s loyalty. It’s difficult for him to express his concerns to Lear because he wishes to protect him from his own ignorance. Kent decides that when Lear is mad or crazy he must disregard his manners. He continues:

Kent:

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.

The tone and audience shift here, causing the actor or reader to imagine Kent raising his voice and confronting Lear for his foolishness. He began this passage speaking to himself but switches to Lear addressing him bluntly and rudely by calling him old man. Perhaps trying to help him realize how his power is diminished in age. From there Kent speaks his words of wisdom, advising Lear not to fall to flattery an foolishness. He compares two situations with a rhetorical question, hoping Lear will see his own error. He begs him to see that the binds of both his and his daughter’s duties will not be held if his power bows to flattery. The “dread” of duty is not so looming if Lear’s subjects recognize he is easily swayed by sugary words. He justifies his blunt words in the next line. It is written in the same form or syntax as the line before implying a parallel there. When power falls to flattery or folly, duty weakens and plainness is required to remedy the situation. Kent both speaks his mind and justifies speaking his mind in a play on words.

Kent continues, begging Lear to control his rash decisions and to save his state/kingdom in doing so. He affirms his intentions and his virtuous nature. Even though Lear has already warned him about criticizing his decision, he does so anyway, hoping that Lear will not destroy his own blessings. At Kent’s own risk he makes these observations out of loyalty and love to the person he serves. He is a model of good servitude. His wisdom continues onto another observation, where Shakespeare masterfully employs foreshadowing.

Kent:

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 continues by swearing on his life the words he is about to speak are true, reinforcing his intelligence and loyalty yet again. He begins his observation plainly, insisting that Cordelia does not love him less than his other daughters, but it is the final line of Kent’s speech that is most moving an thought-provoking. He draws up a metaphor, where a vessel or object like a vase represents a human being. His proverb implies a few things. Completely empty or “heartless” vessels make the loudest or most full noise, because there is nothing to interrupt their “reverb”. He is clearly referencing both Regan and Goneril, pointing out they have the loudest “reverb” or they proclaimed their love the loudest and most passionately. Following this interpretation we come to understand that Kent is implying Goneril and Regan can profess their love so exuberantly because they really have no love for their father at all. They are empty. The other portion of this metaphor implies Cordelia can not proclaim her love because her vessel or her heart is full. Because Cordelia truly loves her dad she can not flatter him with untrue or over dramatic proclamations of her feelings. Cordelia has no reverb and therefore she is full. Through this metaphor Kent shrewdly points out that Cordelia does not love him least, or even equal to her sisters. She loves him the most.

This passage reveals much about the themes of the play and the characters of Kent, Cordelia, Lear, Regan and Goneril. It establishes Kent’s unwavering loyalty, as he stands by his words until banishment. It recognizes Cordelia’s genuine love and brave stance as well as her sister’s contrasting low morals and fake feelings. Perhaps most importantly, it uses Kent’s wisdom to establish a crucial theme of the play: love can not be measured in flattery or words, it is measured in actions and what you hold in your heart. Failure to recognize this can be disastrous.

King Lear Poems

Howdy. I am going to write a few poems inspired by King Lear.

This poem is a golden shovel and a double Haiku. It follows the typical golden shovel form, yet is in a 5–7–5, 5–7–5 format. This is inspired by Edmund’s speech at the beginning of King Lear, where he laments his place in society as a bastard, but makes a wish at the end to topple his legitimate brother. The POV of this poem is Edmund speaking to fellow bastards before his rebellion.


they all see us now
the world’s armpit. the gods
don’t call us wrong. stand
up proud, tall, lift up
our true real names, for
they just use “bastards”

The POV of this next poem is a speech from Edgar to Edmund as Edmund dies. It has greater themes of revenge and triumph.

You, Edmund, I call you a fool
But you don’t wear a hat with bells
You told our dad that I was cruel
From our kingdom, I was expelled
I’ve seen many things since
Including father, no eyes on his face
But even the blind could see this:
That you could never take my place
And now you lay beneath my sword
A dying man, a thing to savor
I hope the history books record
What happened to you, you bastard traitor

Albany and Gender

Although Albany’s weakness throughout King Lear seems to break gender stereotypes, his moral character growth subtly preserves them in the minds of the audience.

Albany is a foil to his wife Goneril; she is power-hungry and pragmatic, while he is cowardly and collected. When Albany constantly does not make strategic moves using his power, Goneril insults him and claims he is not manly. Goneril is portrayed with male stereotypes, while Albany is portrayed with female stereotypes.

However, Albany’s moral strength becomes apparent in the second half of the play. After dealing with Goneril’s antics for most of the play, Edgar convinces Albany that his wife and Regan are terrible people. But even after Albany vows to avenge the wrongs committed against Gloucester, he still agrees with her and forms an alliance with Edmund and Regan out of his patriotism to England. Although he is indecisive, through his dedication to his morals, Albany’s strength is developed throughout the play.

Regan and Goneril’s malicious actions come full circle; they both end up dying. Cordelia, who becomes a symbolic angel throughout the play, is tricked and killed. All women still lose at the end of the play, while Albany’s character undergoes moral growth and survives. He is a cowardly hero who becomes an enlightened saint. While Albany’s personality seems to break gender norms, this is not the case. He is still a man who ends up “winning” at the end of King Lear.

Why Goneril is a Baddie

Baddie: A girl who is super attractive. She slays whether she’s wearing a tight dress or sweatpants. (Urban Dictionary).

“Baddie” is a commonly used term by Gen Z, misconstrued to be utilized as a misogynist word, weaponized by the male species.

“I ain’t ever been with a baddie (with a baddie)
She calm, so I add her to the tally
Madison, but I’m calling her Maddie (yeah)
Like, Mads, try send me the addy”

Own Brand Freestyle by FelixThe1st

Many people perceive this word as a positive label for women, but it objectifies them and only gives credit to their body. Taking back the term and using the factual definition; Baddie: a villain or criminal in a story, movie, etc. (Oxford Languages), we can redefine it as a word of empowerment, such as the way that Goneril presented herself.

Goneril can be described as a jealous, treacherous, and immoral authority figure, deceiving her own father and sisters. Using the Oxford Languages’ definition, Goneril is a technical Baddie, she plays one of the main villains in a male dominant work of literature. Most villains have qualities of independence, and Goneril is the epitome of an independent woman. She defies the control from her husband, Albany, and becomes the “pants” in the relationship, only proving her power and strength in the play.

Why is this a crucial element of the play? Goneril reversed the female stereotypes that Shakespeare aggressively utilizes in all of his writings. Instead of portraying Cordelia’s sense of innocence, Goneril pursues a different approach, creating the atmosphere of a powerful female lead. Her role isn’t mean to be favored, it’s meant to show the importance of a woman playing a villain, and how she’s not much different from a male villain. To compare Goneril’s character to another popular villain in Shakespeare’s King Lear, Edmund, they both practice the skill of deception towards their designated fathers. Edmund manipulates Gloucester by turning him against his brother Edgar, while Goneril deceives her father by illustrating herself as a loving daughter. In the end, the deceptions don’t matter when they both die, but it leaves a strong impact on the audience.

One of the main themes that stem from King Lear is the unreliability of words. Lear is lied to by his own daughters, misinterpreting deception with flattery. Goneril says to him in the beginning of the play,

“As much as child e’er loved, or father found,
A love that makes breath poor and speech unable,
Beyond all manner of so much I love you.”

As she is speaking, she’s saying that her love for her father makes “speech unable,” the irony of her expression of love towards him. While this phrase is not only ironic, it’s also a lie, but Lear believes it. The theme can also be related to the term “Baddie,” because one cannot rely on the Urban Dictionary definition, or the commonly used meaning behind it.

Goneril’s Influence on the Audience

In Shakespeare’s King Lear, the first female character to make an impression on the audience is Goneril. She impresses the audience with her superfluous words as she professes her love for her father. Using phrases such as, “A love that makes breath poor, a speech unable” (I.i.66). From the start, Goneril amazed the audience with her remarkable scope of love for her father. Fathers in the crowd are dreaming of love so remarkable. Daughters in the crowd are forced to ask themselves if they love their fathers so great. However, the play sharply shifts to prove that Goneril’s words are all but honest. This swift reveals surely takes the audience by surprise, pressing the people to question the truth of our loyalty to our blood and our elders, and our children’s loyalty to us.

As the book progresses, Goneril gains more power. As a female in power, this plot acknowledges the audience’s discomfort with women in power due to stereotypes and normality that have limited the idea of women in power. This causes the audience to view women as possible to hold positions of power, which can be difficult to believe in the era of this play. Due to that obstacle, Shakespeare wrote Goneril to be vile and sinful. Goneril said to her husband “Milk-livered man, that bear’st a cheek for blows, a head for wrongs…” (IV.ii.62-63). Goneril’s brash words give the audience a character to be against. While Goneril could have been an independent, strong-willed, and respectful Queen, the audience is influenced to view Goneril, and other powerful women, as deceptive and sinful.