Metamorphosis of King Lear

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Metamorphosis of King Lear

Through the course of the play, King Lear goes through a process of attaining self-knowledge. With this knowledge, he goes through a metamorphosis of person, much like a caterpillar's change into a butterfly. In the beginning, King Lear's vanity, and the image and exercise of power dominate his person. But a series of losses (based on his own bad decisions), a wise "fool", a powerful storm, a seemingly crazy man, and the death of one who truly loved him clear his vision and allow him to see himself and the world as they truly are. The pain and suffering endured by Lear eventually tears down his strength and sanity. Lear is not as strong, arrogant, and filled with pride as he seems in the beginning of the play. Instead he a is weak, scared and confused old man. At the end of the play Lear has completely lost his sanity with the loss of his daughter, Cordelia and this is the breaking point that leads Lear to his death.

In the beginning, King Lear shows his need for praise is how he chooses to divide his kingdom among his daughters. The one who praises him with the most "love" shall receive the largest area of land. This is even more evident when considering that Lear already has divided up the kingdom before the praising even begins, as he gives each daughter her land before hearing the next daughter's praise. Thus the entire arbitration is just a show and an ego boost to himself. It is because of his love for praise that makes him react so strongly to Cordelia when she chooses not to join in the act with her sisters. King Lear is much like a child and tends to have huge fits when things do not go the way he planned. This is shown in his banishment of Cordelia and Kent. Kent is probably one of the most loyal towards Lear besides Gloucester, and it is Cordelia that truly does love Lear. But because they choose not to contribute to this hypocritical "show of love", they are banished. He even threatens to kill Kent if he is found in ten days. Lear says,

"Upon our kingdom; if, on the tenth day following

Thy banished trunk be found in our dominions,

The moment of thy death. Away! By Jupiter,

This shall not be revoked (Act I Sc. I 179-182).
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