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Is King Lear a Good King?
At the beginning of the play we learn that King Lear is old and wishes to retire from his position of King of Britain. The decision greatly alters his life and the lives of those around him. He is accustomed to power and flattery from his subjects and expects the same regard and appraisal from his daughters. On his retirement he makes a very foolish decision to divide his kingdom among his three daughters.
"Give me the map there. Know we have divided
In three our Kingdom and 'tis our fast intent to
Shake all cares and business from our age (Act I, i, 37-39) ."
Lear surrenders all his power and land to his daughters as a reward for their fake demonstration of love towards him. This rash decision leads to his imminent downfall.
The reader can actually foresee the breakdown of King Lear and his loss of control and order. Lear foolishly becomes angry at his youngest and favorite daughter because she refuses to phrase her love and affections. Lear then banishes Cordelia. This foolish act causes Lear to become vulnerable to his other two evil daughters as they conspire against him. After later realizing his mistake and how little Goneril and Regan care about him, he begins to go mad. Yet right from the start I had to question if he wasn't mad already. What king would just retire and divide up a powerful and sturdy kingdom? A Kingdom is run best under one ruler because only one decision is made without any contradiction. Dividing up a Kingdom politically has many disadvantages that Lear doesn't seem to realize. A Kingdom divided means there will be more than one ruler and a difference of opinion will occur. There will always be disagreements and arguments which may end in haste, creating tension between the rulers, especially if they are related and are envious of each others power and are fighting over the same love interest. Although Lear may feel he had a good reason to divide his land there really is no rational reason for his action. He only divided his land so he could be showered with loving words from his daughters. His desire to fuel his ego by abdicating his throne for reward eventually causes him to lose everything, including his family and even his sanity.
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