Question: Write an essay tracing Lear's progress in Act 2 from denial to rage to isolation.

Essay by crazy469College, UndergraduateA, April 2009

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The decisions one makes can influence the course of one's journey through life, all stemming from a single moment in time. In William Shakespeare's tragic play, King Lear, the title character is a flawed man whose inability to see the truth in front of him leads to his downfall. King Lear's journey through the play takes him on a path from denial to rage to isolation, leaving him, in the end, a broken fragment of the king he once was. His denial stems from his not being able to see his daughters' true colors. This denial leads to his rage, when he perceives that Regan and Cornwall are being thoughtless of his authority. Lear then descends into isolation, in hopes of redefining who he is. Lear moves through stages in his life before any wisdom can be gained, resulting in his becoming a victim to his own poor choices.

It is said denial is "an unconscious defense mechanism used to reduce anxiety by denying thoughts, feelings, or facts that are consciously intolerable (dictionary.com)." King Lear's denial derives from his blindness towards Regan and Cornwall's deceitful actions. He cannot see his daughter's and her husband's true motives, since they are masked by lies and deception. Lear and his followers arrive at Gloucester's castle. Kent hails the king, who promptly asks who has placed his messenger in stocks. When Lear finds out it was Regan and Cornwall who did this to Kent, Lear immediately refuses to believe they would imprison and disgrace someone in their King's employ: "They durst not do't: They could not, would not do't---tis worse than murder" (II.iv. 212-214). The fact that Lear convinces himself that his daughter and Cornwall would not mistreat his servant, Ken, shows his denial and aptitude for self-deception.

By being in denial, Lear can avoid the harsh reality that his daughters, Goneril and Regan, as well as Regan's husband, Cornwall, do not respect his authority. To circumvent the truth, he makes an excuse for Cornwall's devious behavior: "No, but not yet, maybe he is not well/ Infirmity doth still neglect all office/ Whereto our health is bound/ We are not ourselves," (II. Iv. 294-297). Lear suggests that, when sick, an individual constantly neglects performances of duties that he is bound to carry out when in health. This reason excuses Cornwall for disrespecting Kent. Even though Lear attempts to solve this problem, he stands in fierce denial of his loss of authority. He no longer has power, only the title, King. His unbelieving denial develops into a powerful rage.

King Lear becomes enraged when he witnesses his daughters' lack of respect towards his commands. His inability to believe what he is seeing causes him to become outraged. In desperation, Lear begs Regan to shelter him, but she refuses: "Good sir, no more. These are unsightly tricks/Return to my sister" (II.IV.346-47). Regan shows little compassion for her father who is in need of her charity. Rather than providing their father with shelter, both Regan and Goneril toy with his emotions. They take the position of being leaders, while Lear becomes a distressed "follower." They tell Lear that he cannot live with either one of them if he has over twenty-five men: "If you will come to me/...I entreat you/ To bring but five and twenty: to no more." (II.IV 416-18) By them denying him his men, they are taking away his authority.

Lear is able to see Regan is inconsiderate of his emotions. He immediately explodes with anger: "Allow not nature more than nature needs/Man's life is a cheap as beasts. (II.IV.453-55). Lear embodies such rage that he curses Goneril, who has a "sharp-tooth unkindness towards him" (II.Iv.132): "My curses on her" (II.IV.334). His rage resulted in him invoking evil on his daughters, since they made a mockery out of him: " I pray you father, being weak, seem so" (II.IV.390). Regan views her father as a senile, weakened king, who no longer can handle control. Lear sees the dishonor his daughters have for him. This provokes him to be frantic, and to seek revenge on his egotistical daughters: "To bear it tamely; touch me with noble anger/...You unnatural hags/ I will have such revenges on you both/That all the world shall-I will do such things/.... O fool I shall go mad" (II.IV.465-75).

Lear was blinded by Regan and Cornwall's love in which he denied their immorality. Yet when he had to accept the truth that his daughters were his "corrupted blood," he became filled with anger. His uncontrollable rage evolves into a sad isolation.

Carlos Salinas once stated, "Isolation is a self-defeating dream." When King Lear loses his authority, he turns to isolation, in an effort to regain some purpose in his life before it slips away. After the confrontation amongst Lear and his daughters, Cornwall asks Gloucester (The Earl), where King Lear was departing: "Alack, the night comes on, and the high winds/Do sorely ruffle; for many miles about/There's scarce a bush" (II.IV.490-92). Lear ventures furiously out into the storm of his own accord. The king would rather experience a dark and chaotic night, than to keep the companionship of his daughters who demand that he abandon his followers.

The coming storm signals the disarray in Lear's life. Regan shows no remorse for her father and his sorrow: "Shut up your doors" (II.IV.302). This is a symbolic force of alienating King Lear. Before he leaves, Lear establishes he is truthfully saddened: "Or e'er I'll weep" (II.IV.475). By isolating himself, he will be able to reflect and go through a purgatorial suffering only to gain some sort of wisdom. Lear sets out into the storm to find a better version of himself.

Shakespeare's tragic play, King Lear, follows the life of a damaged man, who is blinded by his love for his self-seeking daughters. King Lear transitions from denial, to rage to isolation. This causes him to grow weaker, and to no longer be the strong willed king that he once was. The passion he has for his daughters hinders him from seeing the their true motives. When having to accept reality, Lear engages in denial, since he is tormented that his daughters are rather wicked. His refutation leads to his rage, since he is able to witness Goneril, Regan and Cornwall, do not obey his authority. After being rejected, Lear then decides to isolate himself, in hope of rediscovering who he is. Lear's "passion and shame tormented him, which led to his rage to be mingled with his grief." He was once a king who held great power, but became weakened by his vulnerabilities, which were, eventually, his downfall.

This essay was based on the book by Shakespear "King Lear"