King Lear: Facing the Consequences
Shakespeare’s tragedy King Lear is a detailed description of the consequences of one man’s decisions. This fictitious man is Lear, King of England, whose decisions greatly alter his life and the lives of those around him. As Lear bears the status of King, he is, as one expects, a man
of great power. But, sinfully, he surrenders all of this power to two of his daughters, as a reward for their demonstration of love towards him. This
untimely abdication of his throne results in a chain reaction of events that sends him on a journey toward Hell, in order to expiate his sin.
As the play opens one can almost immediately see that Lear begins to make mistakes that will eventually result in his downfall. The very first
words that Lear speaks in the play are:
Give me the map there. Know that we have divided/ In three our kingdom,
and ’tis our fast intent/ To shake all cares and business from our age, /
Conferring them on younger strengths while we/ Unburdened crawl to death. (I.i.38-41)
This gives the reader the first indication of Lear’s intent to abdicate his throne. He goes on further to offer parcels of his kingdom to his daughters
as a form of reward for passing his test of their love:
Great rivals in our youngest daughter’s love, / Long in our court have made
their amorous sojourn, / And here are to be answered. Tell me, my daughters/
(Since now we will divest us both of rule, / Interest of territory, cares of
state), / Which of you shall we say doth love us most? / That we our largest
bounty may extend/ where nature doth with merit challenge. (I.i.47-53)
The most signif…
All of this suffering that Lear endures can be traced back to the single most important error that he made, the decision to give up his throne. This sin has proven to have massive repercussions upon the life of Lear and the lives of those around him, eventually leading to the deaths of almost all who were directly involved with his abdication. After following Lear’s demise which was brought on by a single wrong turn, one cannot help but wonder what difficult corners lie ahead that may cause similar alterations in one’s own life.
Bloom, Harold. Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human. New York: Penguin Putnam, 1998.
Boyce, Charles. Shakespeare A to Z. New York: Roundtable Press, 1990.
Shakespeare, William. King Lear. Eric A. McCann, ed. Harcourt Brace Jovanovick.