Lear's Character Development in Shakespeare's King Lear

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Lear's Character Development in Shakespeare's King Lear

Though King Lear, of Shakespeare's play, King Lear, wrongs both Cordelia and Kent in his harsh treatment against them, the unjust actions of Regan and Goneril against King Lear cause him to be "a man more sinned against than sinning" (3.2.60-61).

In order to relieve himself of the problems and work associated with holding his position so he can "unburdened crawl toward death," King Lear, of pre-Christ Britain, divides up his kingdom into three portions, one for each of his daughters (1.1.41). To decide the daughter to whom he should give the largest portion of the kingdom, King Lear holds a competition that merely serves to feed his ego. He requires each daughter to publicly profess her love for him and promises the largest portion of land to the one who loves him the greatest. Both Regan and Goneril flatter King Lear, telling him what he wants to hear. On the other hand, Cordelia responds honestly, first expressing that she can say "nothing" in response to the question (1.1.92). When Lear presses her further, she explains, "You have begot me, bred me, loved me;" and vows to "return those duties back as are right fit" but that someday she will get married and will not possess the ability to give her father all her love (1.1.102-103). King Lear makes his first error here; he bases his decision on the superficial aspect of his daughters' words. He favors Regan and Goneril because their words sound nice to the ear. In actuality, though, their statements have no true feeling behind them. On the other hand, too caught up in his own pride and ego, King Lear perceives Cordelia's honest words as "pride, which she calls plainness" (1.1.137).

Because Cordelia does not give...

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...osing a loved one in the September 11 attacks, while King Lear does die of anguish over his daughter's death. Since the concept of fate – the belief that all actions are planned out, and regardless of what people do, no one can change the outcome – frequently prevails in literature, one could also attribute King Lear's death to his acknowledgement of fate. King Lear comes to the realization that no matter how hard he tries to do good, his actions have no bearing on what happens. Therefore, he no longer has a reason to live.

Though King Lear is by no means completely innocent and free of blame – his actions prompt some sort of punishment – his two daughters wrong him more than he wrongs the other characters of the play. Through this injustice, though, King Lear learns a lesson and transforms into a better person, even though he dies at the conclusion of the play.
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