THE GENERATION GAP IN KING LEAR


One of the underlying themes in Shakespeareís play, King Lear is the concept of the generation gap. This gap is mainly illustrated between the family. The older generation is Lear himself, and the younger generation consists of his daughters Goneril, Regan and Cordelia. In the second plot of the play, Gloucester represents the older generation, and his sons, Edmund and Edgar exemplifies the younger generation. Both younger generations can be divided into two distinct groups. Goneril, Regan and Edmund are the villains in both the plots and Edgar and Cordelia are the loyal, faithful children. This little twist adds to the effect of the generation gap in the play. There are many comparisons that can be made and confrontations that occur between the generations. These events contribute to the themes of authority, power and loyalty, judgment and wisdom. Overall, it emphasizes the general themes of the generation gap.


Symbolism contributes to the themes authority and power in King Lear. These symbols are represented by material things. For example, in [Act 1 scene 1] when Lear is dividing up his land, power and authority to his three daughters, depending on how much they can verbally express their love for him. [Lines 52-53] "Which of you shall say doth love us most? That we our largest bounty may extend where nature doth with merit challenge." The land that each daughter received is the extent of their authority and of their power in the Kingdom. For example, the Duke of Burgundy did not wish to marry Cordelia after he found out she was getting nothing from her father. He was marrying her for power and authority.
Gonerilís servants show disrespect toward Lear which shows that Learís authority and power over them has diminished. An example of this is Oswaldís attitude towards Lear after his daughter, Goneril told him to show discourtesy towards Lear. [Act 1 scene 4, Lines 75-80] "O, you, sir, you! Come you hither, sir. Who am I, sir? My Ladyís Father. "My Ladyís Father"? My lords knave! You Whoreson dog! You Slave! You Cur!"
Another example of lost authority and power in this act is when Learís Fool offers Lear his Coxcomb (Jesterís Cap) and tells him how foolish he was when he gave up his power to Goneril and Regan.
Learís 100 Knights symbolize Learís power in his mind. When Lear is confronted by his daughter Goneril and is told by her that his men are too disruptive and are to be trimmed to half because she feels he does not need them. Lear is angered at Goneril for this because the Knights represents the remainder of his limited power. Regan then tells him in order to stay with her, he had to dismiss all but 25 knights because he did not have need for these men. He realizes his lost of authority and power and leaves to seek shelter in a storm. Learís knights represent power and authority in his eyes.
Another example of authority and power is Kent being placed in the stocks in the middle of the court yard by Regan and Cornwall. Not only does this symbolize the fact that Lear has no authority or power to them, but shows that they have taken the power of Gloucester because they guests in his castle. The Second Generation strips the First generation of power and increase their own over the first generation.


There seems to be a great disparity in the way the older generation and younger generation views loyalty. Learís loyalty is in his trusting nature. Being a man of great power and authority, he cannot fathom having someone lie to him. It is this naÔve approach that leaves him vulnerable for betrayal. When Lear decided to divide his land to give to his daughters, it symbolized the turning point in which his power was relinquished and true loyalties began to unfold. Gloucester showed true loyalty by aiding Lear in his fight against the evil forces of Goneril and Regan. In [Act 3 scene 3, Lines 17-20] Gloucester, not knowing of Edmundís evil intentions, states about Lear "If I die for it, as no less is threatened me, the King my old master must be relieved. There are strange things towards, Edmund. Pray you be careful." Without