Free Essay on Shakespeare's King Lear - Is King Lear a Good King?

Free Essay on Shakespeare's King Lear - Is King Lear a Good King?

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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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It makes me wonder if how Lear was capable of ruling a country when he couldn't even keep his family together.


If you divide up a powerful nation it will become weaker and open itself up to its enemies, for it is no longer a solid whole, and enemies could now penetrate different areas or seduce the different rulers. Throughout history empires have been broken down into smaller countries and states. These new unions often went to war with each other. It is safe to say that when a Kingdom is broken down, its newly separated parts will go to war with each other and with other Kingdoms. Separation will divide the people of the Kingdom and confuse their loyalties, putting brother against brother. That is why we are the "United" states of America and refused to let the South secede. By letting the Confederacy secede our country would not be as powerful as it is today.


By breaking up a nation, order is disrupted and that is what Lear did when he divided up his. Order is very important to a Kingdom as is the ability to maintain that order, which no one seems able to do without thinking their greedy thoughts. As we read on we see poor pathetic Lear struggle through hardships to try and get the order back into the Kingdom he once ruled. Lear however learned his lesson a little too late when he realizes Cordelia was the daughter who really loved him. He also learns he is just human and that a storm and outside realities actually can hurt him. He sees what it is like to not have a home and to be treated poorly. We start to see that he would make a good King now that he has witnessed his own frailty and sees the world from an outcast's point of view.

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