The Redemption of King Lear?
Shakespeare’s play, King Lear is quite renowned and the folly of the ancient King is a
great example of how not to handle family relationships. The question has been proposed
if King Lear is redeemed when reunited with Cordelia. King Lear does achieve a kind of
redemption when he is reunited with Cordelia in Acts IV and V of the tragedy. What kind
of redemption he achieves is open to interpretation. In order to understand the King’s
redemption, it must be determined what the King is redeemed from. Once this sin is
established, an analysis can be made as to when the King is redeemed, and how.
I propose that King Lear’s folly, for which he is later redeemed occurs in Act I
scene 1. As an opening scene should, this scene sets up all the characters of the play. In
this scene, Lear intends to divide his kingdom among his daughters based on their flattery
in professing their love for him. This superficial nature is a flaw in the King’s character.
King Lear’s oldest two daughters, Goneril and Regan, flatter the King to his liking, easily
deceiving him. Cordelia, the young daughter prefers to “Love, and be silent.”(892). The
King is enraged at Cordelia’s silence, even though in truth she loves the king more than
her sisters. King Lear disowns Cordelia:
Let it be so! Thy truth, then be thy dower!
…sp; And ask of thee forgiveness. So we’ll live,
And pray and sing and tell old tales, and laugh . . .
The gods themselves throw incense. Have I caught thee?
He that parts us shall bring a brand from heavens (959).
Unfortunately the King’s redemption is short for the ending of the play is in the true
nature of a tragedy, and in fact epitomizes the genre.