King Lear: Searching for Vision




King Lear: Searching for Vision


Through the course of the play, King Lear goes through a process of
attaining self-knowledge, or true vision of one's self and the world. With this
knowledge, he goes through a change of person, much like a caterpillar into a
butterfly. In the beginning, King Lear's vanity, and the image and exercise of
power dominate his person. But a series of losses (based on his own bad
decisions), a "fool" of a conscious, a powerful storm, a "supposed" crazy man,
and the death of the one who truly loved him, clear his vision and allow him to
see the himself and the world as they truly are. The pain and suffering endured
by Lear eventually tears down his strength and sanity. Lear is not as strong,
arrogant, and filled with pride as he was in the beginning of the play instead
he is weak, scared, and a confused old man. At the end of the play Lear has
completely lost his sanity with the loss of his daughter Cordelia and this is
the thing that breaks Lear and leads to his death.
In the beginning, King Lear shows his need for praise is how he chooses
to divide his kingdom among his daughters. The one who praises him with the most
"gusto" shall receive the largest area of land. This is even more evident when
you consider that he already has divided up the kingdom before the praising even
begins. As evident as he gives each daughter her land before hearing the next
daughter's praise. Thus the who thing is just a show and an ego boost to himself.
It is because of his love for praise that makes him react so strongly to
Cordelia and Kent when they do not act as he would like them to. It could be
said he is like a child who doesn't remember all that his family has done for
them, but only sees them saying no to a piece of candy. In the play, this is
shown in his banishment of Cordelia and Kent. Kent is probably one of the most
loyal people in the room (not to mention his kingdom), and it is Cordelia that
truly does love Lear. But because they choose not to contribute to this "ego
trip", they are banished. In fact, he threatens to kill Cordelia if she is found
in ten days. Lear says,

"Upon our kingdom; if, on the tenth day following,
Thy banished trunk be found in our dominions,
The moment of thy death. Away! By Jupiter,"

This shows that at the beginning of the play, King Lear feels that his image is
more important than the life of his favorite daughter. This hunger for "image
attributes" is further shown when Kent presents himself to King Lear after being
banished, but in disguise. Kent wants to gain employment as a servant to the
King uses Lear's gullability to praise in order to win the position. In this
case, it's the image of autority that Kent appeals to. The dialog is as follows:

Lear: Does thou know me, fellow?
Kent: No, sir; but you have that in your countenance which
I would fain call master.
Lear: What's that?
Kent: Authority

As with many of today's corporate jobs, saying the right things to those in
charge can get you many things regardless of your qualifications. Because Kent
tells Lear that he "radiates" authority, Lear gives him a chance to serve him.
"King" Lear continues to show his need for "ego reinforcement" with his
keeping of a hundred "knights". These "knights" are hardly around for noble
deeds as one might assume knights to be doing. They are in fact are merely
Lear's fair-weathered friends who eat, drink, and go hunting with him. They
provide a blanket of security by always praising Lear, and leaving him someone
he can exercise command over. His need for them becomes more apparent when
Goneril suggests that not keep them. Lear becomes extremely angry with her which
is shown when he asks the gods to render Goneril unable to bare children. Lear
says;

"Hear, Nature, hear! Dear goddess, hear!
Suspend thy purpose, if thou dist intend
to make this creature fruitful!
Into her womb convey sterility!
Dry up in her the organs of increase;

This is a rather unpleasant thing to say to your own daughter, not to mention
one you just gave half your kingdom to, just for suggesting you don't keep a
band of hoodlums around. In fact he continues to suggest that if she should have
children, let them be perverse