King Lear: King Lear Character Analysis: (Lear in Act 1 ( (Goneril…
King Lear: King Lear Character Analysis:
Lear in Act 1
Lear loves to be flattered which is one of the reason’s he conducts a love test for his daughters when the time came for him to divide his kingdom into three. Lear loved being flattered so much by his three daughters that he took an immediate offence when Cordelia refuses to express her love for him verbally.
Lear is impulsive, he decides too quickly without taking time to think it over, he just decides, and sticks with it. Examples are;
When he decides to spilt his kingdom into three for his daughters.
When he disowns Cordelia after she refuses to answer her father’s love test.
When he banishes Kent from the kingdom forever when Kent tries to defend Cordelia.
When Lear divides his kingdom between Goneril and Regan, he is left without any riches which doesn’t seem to bother him since he doesn’t seem to have any interest in physically running the kingdom.
Lear is arrogant and feels like he is entitled to everything he demands. Examples are;
Demanding for his dinner to be given to him this instant.
Ordering Oswald to get Goneril at once for him.
When Lear responds to Goneril’s complaints about his knights, he takes a bit over the top, this could be because he so arrogant and also because of his mental state.
He is over dramatic about the way Goneril has spoken to him because as a king, he has never been spoken to like that before.
He is dramatic by saying that he can’t believe what he is hearing or seeing, it must not be true.
Goneril reasonable suggests that Lear gives up half his knights and the other half stay with him, the older half.
But Lear reacts volcanically by referring to Goneril as a “kite” and a “Degenerate Bastard” showing that Lear has no views of Goneril as a legitimate child, so he has now disowned her. Example of being impulsive.
He also wishes that whatever plans the God’s have for Goneril to have children are cancelled and she is made sterile. It is clear that Lear’s rage is widely out of proportion for Goneril’s reasonable argument.
Lear thinks that Goneril lacks gratitude when she asks him to excuse half of his 100 knights because Lear has literally just given her half the kingdom.
King Lear is the King of Britain who is in his eighties.
He is the father of Goneril, Regan and Cordelia and the father-in-law of the Duke of Albany and the Duke of Cornwall.
Two of his dear friends are the Earl of Gloucester and the Earl of Kent.
Goneril says that her father is foolish and blind because he has given away his kingdom to his two daughters without giving it a second thought.
Examples of Lear’s signs of descending into madness are;
Yelling and roaring at people for no particular reason or for little things e.g. Goneril, Oswald, etc.
Striking / hitting people for no particular reason for little things e.g. Kent, Oswald.
It is only in Act 1 Scene 5 when he is with his Fool when he only realizes what he is really happening and what he has said and done.
Lear in Act 2:
The next time Lear appears is in Act 2: Scene 4 where he is not as arrogant or cocky, his sense of self has been diminished.
Lear has lost confidence in himself because he used to have everything go and be his own way since he is the King and his wishes should be followed.
You can see a shift in his attitude when he finds Caius (Kent) in the stocks. If this had happened back in Act 1, Lear would have expressed his feelings through rage and anger, but instead, he expresses his feelings in shock and disbelief that one of his own servants, the King’s servants, is being held in stocks.
You can also see a shift in his attitude when Cornwall and Regan refuse to speak to him, and he orders Gloucester to “fetch” them and he curses the husband and wife for refusing to speak to them. “Vengeance! Death! Plague! Confusion!”.
Lear now calms down and he uses flattery to try and keep Regan and Cornwall on his side and also so Regan can hopefully act against her older sister, Goneril. “Beloved Regan … O Regan … O, Regan!”. Lear also states that Regan is unable to hurt him the same way Goneril has.
Lear also tries to use guilt against Regan saying that she should be glad to see him, after all, he has given her every reason to love him. Not just for the parental care he has given her, but he had given away half his kingdom to her.
There are flashes on the old Lear throughout this scene, we see traces of his arrogance, entitlement, rage. Examples are:
Rage: When he strikes Oswald once again like he did back in Act 1: Scene 4.
Fury: When he says that Goneril and Regan mean nothing to him anymore.
Fury: When he curses his two daughters and describes them as illegitimate.
Arrogance: When he mimes kneeling and asking Goneril for forgiveness, but this is only him being sarcastic. Not to mention that Lear is a King and it would be ludicrous and inappropriate for a King to be begging.
As the scene goes on, we see the rest of his confidence disappear. Examples are;
When Cornwall admits to putting Kent in the stocks, Lear is speechless.
Lear pleads with Regan when Goneril arrives and she joins hand with her younger sister showing a sign on unity. This time, Lear is begging for real, not out of sarcasm.
• Not only has Lear been stripped of the remaining of his 50 knights, but he has also been stripped o his dignity and self-esteem. Lear is someone who wants power but not the responsibility.
• By the end of the Act, Lear comes across as a weary and grief-stricken old man, a “wretched” or “pathetic figure”.
• He not just mentally broken but physically as well now that he cannot express his anger or rage like he did back in Act 1.
• This makes Lear pathetic since he declared to take “such revenge” against his two daughters who he branded as “unnatural hags!”.