The Parallelism of Plots in Shakespeare\'s King Lear

Title of Paper : The Parallelism of Plots in Shakespeare\'s King Lear
Grade Received on Report : 85

In his King Lear, Shakespeare creates a main plot and a subplot that are intricately interwoven and
which complement each other in a number of various aspects involving events and characterization. The
main plot involves that of King Lear and those connected to him. It opens as his highness is preparing to
divide his kingdom between his three daughters, Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia, and continues with the
chain of events that arise from this occurrence. The subplot whose events reinforce those of the main plot
concerns the Earl of Gloucester and the matters that he deals with involving his sons Edgar and Edmund.
The first connection between the plots is shown by the two fathers, Lear and Gloucester, who are oblivious
to the truth and mistakenly place high levels of power into the hands of their evil children while exiling the
good. Lear banishes Cordelia after his forced test of love in which Goneril and Regan exhibit a
"hypocritical and rhetorical exce!
ss" (Greg 890) of disguised truth while Cordelia states simply "I love your majesty according to my bond;
nor more nor less" (Greg 893). This is a rather disappointing statement in the eyes of the King, as he is
immediately surprised and infuriated with rage. Edgar is then disowned by Gloucester after Edmund dupes
him out of paternal inheritance by way of a forged letter. His father is fooled in the same type of manner as
Lear, each tricked by the cunning children that are concocting evil plots against their aging fathers and their
saintly siblings. These events clearly display the ways in which the two fathers make rash decisions due to
their entirely ignorant manners regarding their own offspring\'s nature. They blame the children who truly
love them while placing dangerous control and massive fortune into the hands of those who do not.
Next we see how the evil children each betray their fathers. Goneril and Regan plot together to
extract all power from their father by reducing his number of followers and treating him like a decrepit old
man, while Edmund takes a letter (in confidence) from his father that is damaging to Cornwall (Regan\'s
husband) and goes straight back to the Duke to tell of Gloucester\'s unfaithfulness.
We also observe the way in which both "aged patriarchs" (Greg 889) are blinded; Lear is
"blinded" by his senility and by political issues. His mental state becomes progressively worse as
conditions in the play do the same. He is unable to "understand himself, his daughters, and the condition of
the poor wretches of the world until he is stripped of everything" (Greg 890). Gloucester is literally
blinded in a horrific torture scene involving all of the bastard children. His eyes are gouged out for his
betrayal of them; they have now successfully taken over his estate as they have with Lear\'s. As both old
men have exiled their good children, they in turn are exiled out into nature, unwelcome in their own
dwellings since their own tyrannous progenies have grasped all control.
We are shown the images of both wanderers, each with no place to go and nothing to believe in.
They have sacrificed everything due to their extreme naivety--their power, material possessions, and mental
stability. Shakespeare depicts Lear with his crown of weeds and Gloucester with his bandaged eyes, both
in tattered clothes and dirty faces, having no shelter and almost no hope.
In their times of despair, both Gloucester and Lear have a small handful of people on which they
can depend upon. Kent, Lear\'s banished loyal follower in disguise, provides support whenever the King
needs anything. The Fool performs foolishness in a role he plays to protect and encourage Lear. Edgar
plays the same role of providing protection and encouragement to Gloucester by performing madness as
Poor Tom, the beggar possessed by demons. These three loyal subjects interact both with each other and
with the shunned duo. They play a key part in transferring vital messages between Lear, Gloucester, and
their group of children.
By way of Kent, Cordelia discovers the trials that her father has endured. She comes to the King\'s
rescue, the French troops following closely behind to