King Lear's Cordelia

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 12th grade October 2001

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KING LEAR: CORDELIA In "King Lear," Cordelia is Lear's youngest daughter, who represents true, unconditional love for her father. Her genuinely kind character sharply contrasts the ruthless characters of her sisters, Regan and Goneril. In the beginning of the play, Lear banishes Cordelia and cuts her out of his living will, because she refuses to flatter him. Although she disappears from the play after the first scene until the last scene of the fourth act, her character is prominent in the plot. When Cordelia finally returns to the story, she reveals her devotion and love for her father and his well-being. Cordelia is a woman of a strong moral integrity; she is humble, stubborn, virtuous, proud and dutiful.

Shakespeare first introduces Cordelia as the stubborn sister who is unwilling to satisfy her father's vanity with words of flattery. She tells herself to "love and be silent" and when her father asks for her flattery, she responds with "nothing, my lord."

This statement stands in sharp opposition to the words of her sisters, which were flowery, but insincere compliments. Cordelia tells her father that he has "begot, bred, loved" her, and that she has returned those actions by obeying, loving and honoring him. She refuses to make public professions of love for him, which sparks the king's fury and causes him to banish her. She acts on principle and does not believe that someone should command her emotions.

Cordelia's actions reveal a great sense of personal dignity. When she is leaving her father's kingdom, she tells him that it was "no vicious blot, murder, or foulness, no unchaste action or dishonored step" that has caused him to disown her. She believes strongly in herself and her convictions and does not see any harm in her inability to offer great praise...