Free Essay: Needs vs. Desires in Shakespeare's King Lear

Free Essay: Needs vs. Desires in Shakespeare's King Lear

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Needs vs. Desires in King Lear




In Act 2, Scene 4 of King Lear, written by William Shakespeare, Lear argues that for a person to be content with only what one needs, is the same as reducing a human to the level of a beast or animal. I am in opposition to Lear's idea via the issue of needs versus desires. Through knowledge based on experience, observation, and reading I can elaborate on my reasons for choosing to challenge his opinion.


From my own experience I know that a need is a lacking or requirement for a substance, to live; an adequate amount. So a desire is to wish or long for more of something; or in Lear's world, to be on the verge of mania. A good way to compare needs versus desires is food. Food is a necessity to live. When you eat the right amounts of what you ought to, you are sufficiently nourished and therefore healthy. Yet, if you always go to an All-You-Can-Eat-Buffet and try to get your monies' worth by gorging yourself, that is a desire. This is for the reason that you are overeating, and the majority of the food is more harm than good. At an All-You-Can-Eat-Buffet you persuade yourself to always eat one more plate full. It seems to be worth it, so you eat till you reach the point of marginal utility for the money you have spent. By doing this you are satisfying the desire temporally but your stomach is miserable, which is a base lifestyle to have. I believe you should eat to live and not live to eat, nor should your flesh rule over you. The way this relates to Lear is that he could not depart without all of his men even though he did not need them anymore. He wanted to keep some since of wealth and authority. Lear also desired to be flattered which lead to his own demise.


By observing people I know that if you own less you are more appreciative of things in life. Yet if you own more you desire more. Therefore you become a slave to your passions and lust, rather than an owner of your possessions.

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In the bible there is a verse that covers the entire plot of King Lear. 1 Timothy 6:6-10 "But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs."


In the short story The Most Dangerous Game the main character owns a lot of things, among his many possessions are an island, animals, a mansion, a slave, and people. He is obsessed with hunting for sport so he buys all the animals he wants to hunt and enjoys them for a little while. Still he is not satisfied with the challenge so he purchases humans to hunt since they have a more cunning thinking process. By hunting for sport he proves himself to be more savage than the animals that kill only what they need to survive. This connects with the part in King Lear where Lear's two daughters, Regan and Goneril, join together in a conspiracy against their father to take all that he is worth and leave him hopeless and wretched. They were selfish and hated Lear for loving Cordelia more than them. As you can see the desires of their flesh override their conscience and cause them to act ruthlessly. The Great Gatsby is also parallel to King Lear in the fact that greed rules the lives of most people, this novel too ends with death and destruction. They always believe that if they just obtain that one thing they can be truly happy. For instance, Daisy and Tom stay together even though there was not any love left between them. Their money was the only thing that held them together and simultaneously hid them from the consequences of their wrongs. To Daisy and Tom, money was their god and it bought everything that they wanted. George Wilson lost Myrtle as a result the affair she had with Tom because of her desires for more affection and money then she died. Finally, George sought revenge for Myrtle's death, killed Jay Gatsby and himself.


In King Lear two, of the few, characters that did not succumb to these wretched acts of covetousness are Cordelia and the King of France. Cordelia refuses to lie to her father, King Lear, by flattering him and therefore surrenders her dowry. Then the Duke of Burgundy refuses to marry her since he would receive no dowries along with her. Even so, the King of France is willing to marry her still. To him she is a prize in herself. France knows that true worth is not in possessions but in the love of people and appreciation. They are both content in having what they need and delighted with anything more. In conclusion, the other characters' acts are ignorant and they use the benefits of wealth to hide them from the effects of their actions. They just go with the flow. Whatever feels good at the time they pursue it, while they used words and authority to obtain contentment of their lust. These inhumane actions are lower than those of a beast, they make a person into a fiend. Therefore, to content oneself strictly with what one needs in addition to godliness is above fame and fortune.



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