Deception in Shakespeare’s King Lear

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The Deception in King Lear

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William Shakespeare’s play King Lear is a play full of deceit and betrayal.

This becomes evident in the first few lines. We first

learn of the empty words of Goneril and Regan as well as their hatred for their

father, King Lear. This becomes the center of the play and also leads to the

madness that the king suffers from.

The first words that Goneril speaks are totally empty and are the complete

opposite of what she really feels. She says, “Sir, I love you more than word

can wield the matter; Dearer than eye-sight, space and liberty;” (I.i.54-55)

The reason why there are no words to express her love for her father is that she

has no love for him and it does not exist. The same goes for her sister, Regan,

who is plotting against her father as well. She says that she feels the same

way as her sister and expresses how Goneril has named her very deed of love.

Regan adds a little twist to this and professes that she loves Lear more than

her sisters and that Goneril’s affection for her father “comes too short.”

(I.i.71) By uttering these words, Regan shows that her love is even less true

than that of her sister’s. She goes even farther to say:

“…that I profess

Myself an enemy to all other joys

Which the most precious square of sense possesses,

And find I am alone felicitate

In your dear highness’ love.”


This goes to show that she is more greedy than her sister and her words are also

falser. She wants more than her sister and will do anything to attain her goal.

Her ambition to get what she wants is evident in the words that she speaks. She

claims herself to be “an enemy to all other joys” but she is really the enemy to

her father.

The next person King Lear calls to speak is his soft-spoken daughter,

Cordelia. Lear does not have much respect for her because she does not flatter

him and put him on the pedestal that he feels that he should be put on. This is

exactly what his other daughters do and he feels very strongly that Cordelia

should do the same. Because of all the flattery that was given him by his other

two daughters, he gives them most of his possessions. The first thing that

Cordelia says when the King asks her to speak is “nothing.” The king is enraged

by this remark and says that, “Nothing will come of nothing: speak again.

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