Essay on Character Analysis of King Lear
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King Lear, the protagonist of the play, is a truly tragic figure. He is driven by greed and arrogance and is known for his stubbornness and imperious temper, he often acts upon emotions and whims. He values appearances above reality. He wants to be treated as a king and to enjoy the title, but he doesn’t want to fulfill a king’s obligations of governing for the good of his subjects.
Similarly, his test of his daughters demonstrates that he values a flattering public display of love over real love. He doesn’t ask “which of you doth love us most,” but rather,
“which of you shall we say doth love us most?” (I.i.49).
Most readers conclude that Lear is simply blind to the truth. As a result, he grants his inheritance to Goneril and…show more content…
They treat him with contempt, strip him of his power and dignity, by refusing his request of one hundred knights and asking this staff to treat him with scorn. Lear is also treated as a rag-doll being tossed from one to the other and is left outside to endure ‘the storm’.
An important question to ask is whether Lear develops as a character—whether he learns from his mistakes and becomes a better and more insightful human being. In some ways the answer is no: he doesn’t completely recover his sanity and emerge as a better king. But his values do change over the course of the play. Because of his ill treatment, Lear undergoes a slight change of character. Humbled by the loss of power and material well being, he begins to see the errors of his ways. Lear may recognise his flaws for once, that he has wronged his loyal daughter Cordelia, an emphinany of sorts, yet he still wallows in self pity and claims to be "More sinn'd against than sinning." In this pathetic moment, Lear exemplifies in the extreme a possessive parent with ungrateful children, as he chalks up their transgressions on a cosmic balance sheet. The storm seems a manifestation of his fury, and—still clinging to the royal imperative—Lear commands it to strike where he, being weak, cannot. However when Lear looks at the shivering, half-naked body of Poor Tom the beggar and concludes that this is true humanity, without the perfumes and fancy
The Earl of Kent is a major character in King Lear. He figures prominently in Act I when he defends Cordelia, Lear's youngest daughter, after Lear has disowned her for failing to declare her love for him as passionately as did Goneril and Regan. Kent so angers the King that he banishes him from England. However, Kent is such a faithful subject that he returns in disguise in Act 1, Scene 4 and manages to get Lear to employ him as a servant. (See the beginning of Scene 4 and the stage directions reading "Enter KENT, disguised.")
With Cordelia married and removed to France, Lear is left with only two faithful attendants, Kent, calling himself Caius, and the Fool. Kent does everything he can to protect and provide for Lear. In Act 2, Scene 4, Kent ends up in the stocks for fighting with Oswald, the servant of Goneril, in Act 2, Scene 2.
Kent is loyal to Lear to the very end of the play, although Lear does not recognize him as the banished Earl. In Act 5, Scene 3, the dying Lear finally recognizes him.
Are you not Kent?
Your servant Kent. Where is your servant Caius?
He's a good fellow, I can tell you that,
He'll strike, and quickly too: he's dead and rotten.
No, my good lord; I am the very man--
After Lear dies, Kent decides that he will die too. He tells Albany:
I have a journey, sir, shortly to go;
My master calls me, I must not say no.
Kent is the picture of loyalty in contrast to the villainous Goneril, Regan, Edmund, and Oswald. For instance, Kent has joined the invading French forces and Cordelia in Act 4, Scene 7. There is a beautiful metaphor in this scene, when Lear regains consciousness and finds his one loving daughter Cordelia looking down at him. He says
You do me wrong to take me out o' the grave:
Thou art a soul in bliss, but I am bound
Upon a wheel of fire, that mine own tears
Do scald like molten lead.