" King Lear "
" King Lear "
An important idea present in William Shakespeare's " King
Lear " is rejection and the role this rejection plays in the experiences
of the involved characters. The important ideas to be considered
here are the causes and effects associated with the act of rejection.
The most important situations to be considered in the story of
" King Lear " are those that develop between the two fathers, Lear
and Gloucester, and their children, Goneril and Regan, Cordelia,
Edmund, and Edgar. Each case falls on a different plane, but it is
important to consider the similarities between the positions of Lear
The rejection of Lear by his two daughters, Goneril and Regan,
can be seen as a type of revenge. Throughout their lives they had
always been far behind Cordelia in the king's eyes. As a result of
this second-hand treatment, Goneril and Regan carried with them
an immense amount of hatred and when Lear divided his kingdom
between them, they both openly rejected his presence in their lives.
" Some other time for that. - Beloved Regan, she hath tied
sharp-tooth'd unkindness, like a vulture here, - I can speak scarce to
thee ; thou'lt not believe with how depraved quality - O Regan
( King Lear II.iii )! Goneril's response further clarifies this
rejection. " Good sir, no more ; these are unsightly tricks : return
you to my sister ( King Lear II.iii ). Lear's reaction is pure rage.
He understands that he had not given them too much of his time,
but he had given them their percentage of the kingdom only because
they had made a pledge to him that they would care for him in his
elder years. The bond broken in this situation is a very weak one.
The only thing that held it together was this flimsy pledge that the
daughters had no intention of honoring. But no matter the
conditions, he was their father and his well-being was a sort of
payment for their very existence.
Cordelia's rejection of Lear breaks a much stronger bond. Lear
loses his entire life purpose when Cordelia turns Lear away.
" Good my lord, you have begot me, bred me, lov'd me : I
return those duties back as are right fit, obey you, love
you, and most honour you. Why have my sisters husbands
if they say they love you all? Haply, when I shall wed,
that Lord whose hand must take my plight shall carry half
my love with him, half my caret duty : Sure I shall never
marry like my sisters to love my father all ( King Lear I.i )
When Cordelia gave Lear this response, he was all alone. The one
person he expected to be there for him in his old age and take care
of him as he had done her was no longer an option. Lear was forced
to fall back on his other daughters, who were unreliable in any
sense. When Cordelia is unable to pledge her complete love to Lear
he banishes her to France. In the end she is the only family by his
side. She was the only one honest with Lear and she pays for her
honesty. In the end the relationship is restored. She is by his side
until the time of her death. For the first time Lear realizes that he
had been asking too much from her and at his own expense for she
had more than enough love in her heart for him all along.
The two cases involving Gloucester fall on a similar plane. The
first to be examined is Edmund's rejection of his father. The motive
behind this case is nothing but pure evil. Edmund has everything a
man could ever want, but for some reason he does not feel like he
belongs. From the beginning he is working against his brother's
name, which in fact was a very pure one. " Here stood he in the
dark, his sword out, mumbling of wicked charms, conjuring the
moon ( King Lear II.i ). He has full possession of his father's love,
but he feels a need to assure it by making his brother out to be a
much more evil person than he ever was. But Edmund's evil goes
beyond Edgar. Edmund betrays his father to the Duke of Cornwall,
making him appear guilty of treason. As a result of this accusation,
Gloucester has his eyes gouged out. Edmund no longer respected
Gloucester as his father. He saw him as an obstacle on his way to
It is at this point that Gloucester realizes his love for his other
son, Edgar, who he had rejected from birth.
" O you mighty Gods! This world I do renounce and in your
sights shake patiently my great affliction off : If I could
bear it longer and not fall to quarrel with your great
opposeless wills, my shuff and loathed part of nature
should burn itself out. If Edgar live, O Bless him! - Now,
fellow, fare thee well ( King Lear IV.vi ).
Edgar never did accept the fact that his father did not love him and
makes every effort to become a part of his life. When Edmund
made Gloucester believe that Edgar had made an attempt on his life,
it looked like Edgar would be forced far from the land. But Edgar
disguised himself as a madman and stayed as a guest in
part of Gloucester's castle. It is this position that helped him gain
his father's heart. After Edmund betrayed Gloucester, he was left
without anyone and wished to die. He asked Edgar to accompany
him to a nearby cliff, which he intended to jump off. Edgar took
him elsewhere to prevent this. Edgar was there for his father when
he needed him most. He secured Gloucester's safety. " Far off,
methinks, I hear the beaten drum : Come father, I'll bestow you
with a friend ( King Lear IV.vi ). Edgar far surpassed the
allegations Edmund built up around him and at Gloucester's death,
received his father's blessing.
Rejection plays a big role in the motives and actions of the
characters in " King Lear. " Everyone deals with rejection in their
own way and Shakespeare made this very clear through a wide
variety of examples. Some accept rejection, some don't. Some look
for revenge, while others try to set things right. It is the mentality,
the strengths, and the personalities of the characters that produces
their reactions. That is what Shakespeare wanted to convey to his
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