Love in 'King Lear'
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Love in 'King Lear'

Love is a recurring theme in "King Lear." But what does it mean?

Love in 'King Lear'

A major theme that is conveyed in King Lear 1.1 is that with great power comes a corrupt view of love. Power causes one to become self-absorbed and thus lose the feeling of genuine love towards others.

Lear exemplifies the corruption of love in 1.1 when he asks each of his daughters to state how much she loves him. Goneril and Regan, wanting the material advantages that accompany feigned feelings, shower their father with ingenuine claims regarding their affection. Cordelia, not blindly conforming to what is expected of her, speaks honestly to Lear. Lear's corrupt view of love is the reason for his reaction of disowning her. His banishing Cordelia portrays his rash mindset-- a negative influence that power has had on him. A more reasonable person would understand Cordelia's words and not interpret them as insulting. Lear is acclimated to being told what he wants to hear, as happens in the case of Goneril and Regan, so much so that he is shocked and offended by Cordelia's words, and he believes that they merit her being cast out.

Lear's alternate definition of love -- that love is power -- is infectious to an undiscerning eye. A keen example is Goneril and Regan's actions. They are driven by greed, so they do not show their sister solidarity after she has been cast out. They are simply focused on the riches they have acquired. They know they have just inherited land, and they feel successful. Their showering of Lear with love "worked", and they have gained wealth as a result. On the other hand, Cordelia's discerning eye is able to correctly define love from the beginning of the play. She understands that the land she would have received as a result of lying to her father would not outweigh the honesty sacrificed. She is a genuine person, and refuses to contribute to the fantasy of perfect love that her father is wrongly living in.

As the play progresses, Lear becomes more realistic with his view of love, but the mindset of power being equal to love that he passed on to Goneril and Regan stays with them. Their previous proclamations of love to Lear are further proven to be false when they both betray him. Once Lear realizes that Cordelia is his truly loving daughter, he starts to understand and experience a more realistic love through his encounters with her. It is a love that is not based off of wealth. Cordelia exemplifies true love, as she forgives Lear after he treats her wrongfully. Lear, towards the end of the play, emulates Cordelia's love by spending quality time with her and feeling towards her the same love that she feels towards him. By the end of the play, Lear is able to discern the indecency of his other daughters.

Meanwhile, Goneril and Regan fail to demonstrate any significant change in their understanding of love. In fact, they become progressively more destructive. The girls spite each other out of desperation for Edmund (a relationship being pursued out of convenience and power, not love), and their fates reflect their irrational lifestyles and definition of love.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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