King Lear - Victim Of Love

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In his blind egocentricity, Lear has broken the bonds of state, family and friendship. By breaking these bonds, Lear transforms from a powerful, independent individual to a vulnerable, weak, desperate man. Is this entirely his fault? Although most would be quick to say yes, I would have to say no. Lear was a victim. He was a victim due to his immense compassion and trust. Lear is the perfect example of the saying "nice guys come in last". Why should we blame the man for having a big heart? Why should we criticize him for loving and trusting his family? He deserves all of our sympathy and pity. There are numerous reasons why he deserves our pity, but a few very strong cases stand out.

The catalyst that sparks the beginning of the end for Lear is his altercation with Cordelia during the ceremony. He asks his 3 daughters to profess their love to him.

Sure this is shallow considering it's through words, but everyone deserves to feel loved, and Lear, being the simple man that he is, is content with words as proof of love. His 2 older daughters, Regan and Goneril do a fantastic job of appeasing him, delivering immaculate, embellished speeches that meet and exceed what his simple mind would be satisfied with. Upon his most cherished Cordelia's turn, all she can say is "Nothing". That right there is a lie because we all know she loves him more than the other two sisters. True she does not want to lie to her father and inflate him with false warmth, however "Nothing" is a lie. She definitely loves him. She then goes on to claim to love him "according to my bond". She is basically saying she only loves him because he is her father. That is a blatant lie, and even though she is trying to protect him by saying this, she actually crushes his heart. Who can blame Lear for the way he reacted to this. How is one supposed to feel when one's most loved child confesses that they've only loved you according to family bond? It wasn't necessary for Cordelia to deliver an elaborate, fallacious speech like her sisters' however she should have come clean about her love for him, because she did love him wholeheartedly. Even a simple, short confession of love would have made him happy. "I loved her most, and thought to set my rest on her kind nursery." he says. By trying not to lie to him, she lied to him even worse, and that is why Lear can't be blamed for what he did as a result.

Lear holds a world of trust in his family. He loves them so deeply that he believes anything they say. Innocently, he bestows upon his three daughters all of his power only to be mercilessly backstabbed by his own roots. He was so blinded by his genuine love for his daughters that he couldn't possibly imagine their ulterior motives. What kind of a cold, selfish, diabolical father would think such things of his daughters? Despite how he may come across when he speaks, Lear is a softy deep down. At the whim of their rubbish words, Lear imparts his power to them. He trusts them with his life, for he will have no power after giving it all up. Unfortunately, his daughters turned out to be demons. In the absence of their mother, he ran a whole empire to make life better for his daughters. He risks everything on the strength of receiving love and care from his daughters. He doesn't care about the power; he gave it all up in a second. He only wanted to be loved, and Goneril and Regan took advantage of this compassionate trait of his to steal his power.

In a noble attempt to get Lear to see things for what they really are, Kent gets himself banished. Although his intentions are kind, Kent must realize that Lear has just had his heart shattered. He is in pieces. When one is overcome by such overwhelming emotion, as is justified by what Lear had to endure, then it's impossible to think in a rational manner. Furthermore, Kent doesn't reason with Lear in a careful way. When someone has been so devastated, they must be dealt with delicately. Kent says, "Be Kent unmannerly when Lear is mad. What wouldst thou do, old man?" By calling him mad, and old man, Kent further aggravates Lear's emotion, adding anger and frustration to his already fragile state. This causes Lear to act even more irrational, and banishes Kent. If one just had their heart broken by the one they loved most in this world, the last thing they need is for someone to step in and call them an idiot. As Lear put it, "Come not between the dragon and his wrath" Kent should have approached Lear in a calmer, more soothing manner, perhaps asking him to step outside and speak privately. Instead Kent verbally embarrasses Lear in front of all the royalty, and adds insult to the injury. Kent brought his banishment upon himself.

Yes, Lear is the one who ultimately breaks the bonds of state, friendship, and family. Was it his fault? No. Cordelia lied to him. She told him she had no love for him other than their family bond. Not only that, but she also says she would love some husband that she hasn't even met yet as much as she will love him. He loved her more than anything, and she took his heart and tore it into pieces without thinking of the consequences. He loved and trusted his two elder daughters, Goneril and Regan as well, handing them over two thirds of his empire, only to be deceived. Is it a crime to love and trust someone so much that you lose sight of the truth? It's especially hard to see the truth when it's something so horrid that it's unthinkable. Kent fuelled the flames, and for it he was burned. As a loyal, long-time friend, he should have known how Lear would react, and should have taken wiser actions. Kent acted rashly and inconsiderately towards Lear, making a mockery of him in public. Lear had no choice but to save face and whatever ounce of dignity he had left by banishing Kent although he surely didn't want to. Lear is a naïve man indeed, but all of his intentions were good. Who are we to blame him for loving his family and trusting them? Don't we all? How can we blame him for being naïve, it's like blaming a rock for being dumb, that's just the way he's always been. In the end, Lear fell victim because he was a kind, loving man, in a cruel, inconsiderate world.