Loyal Characters in Shakespeare’s King LearShakespeare’s good characters, in the play King Lear, are considered good because they are loyal even when they are disguised from or unrecognizable by those to whom they owe loyalty. In addition, their loyalty does not waver even when they are banished or mistreated by those to whom they are loyal. Cordelia, Edgar and Kent are all characters that exemplify this goodness and unwavering loyalty.
Let us first consider King Lear and his relationship with his daughter Cordelia. When King Lear asks Cordelia to profess her love for him she merely answers that she loves him according to her bond, no more. Enraged, the king banishes her without an inheritance or dowry. Cordelia tries to explain that she will not speak of her love for him in order to get fortunes since this would be deceitful. However, Lear refuses to understand and Cordelia leaves imploring her sisters to care for him.
What makes Cordelia a good character here is not only that she refuses to flatter her father in order to deceive him out of his wealth, but also because she accepts her father’s punishment and leaves willingly even though she knows it is not a just punishment. Additionally, she expresses no animosity toward Lear, instead she asks her sisters to care for him. This unwavering loyalty is also exhibited later in the play when Cordelia finds Lear and she realizes he is mad. She cares for him and gives him medicinal herbs until he is well again. Even when Lear begs for her forgiveness she insists that she has no cause to be offended.
Perhaps the most pure form of loyalty is when it is displayed even when the beneficiary is unaware. When loyalty is expressed in this discrete manner the bestower cannot e…
… loyal servant and friend. He wanted to be close to the King in order to protect him. He demonstrated that he did not desire a reward for his loyal actions since he remained in disguise and did not reveal his true identity to the King.
King Lear is a play about loyalty. “Goodness” is portrayed by the characters as selflessness. Each “good” character displays loyalty through selfless actions. Cordelia selflessly does not attempt to rob Lear of his wealth by flattering him. Even though she risks banishment, she selflessly refuses to indulge her father’s foolish wishes. Edgar, too, is selfless in his actions by leading his father to safety even when he knows Gloucester does not recognize him and will not appreciate that he was, in fact, the truly loyal son. Finally, Kent, Lear’s Selfless servant, risks his life to protect his king even after he has been mistreated.