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An examination of king lear by william shakespeare

Contact Author Cordelia's Farewell Source King Lear is a play that confuses morality with foolishness, as well as mingles insanity with wisdom.

William Shakespeare, notorious for his clever wordplay, wrote it so that King Lear 's wisest characters are portrayed as making foolish decisions.

Shakespeare wants to portray how sometimes what appears to be a foolish idea when it comes to money is often the wisest decision of all.

An Analysis of Shakespeare

One example is when Cordelia, King Lear's daughter, chooses to be honest rather than flatter her father King Lear at the beginning of the play. Although her decision may appear to be foolish on the surface, she proves herself to have made the wisest decision by remaining true to herself.

Analysis of Shakespeare's King Lear: The King's Foolishness and His Fool's Wisdom

Shakespeare shows in many of his plays that character is of utmost importance in a person's life, and he definitely proves his point in King Lear. King Lear also finds that the line between foolishness and wisdom may not always be clear.

For instance, Lear's greatest sources of wisdom are found through two of the most unlikely sources: The fool plays a central part in bringing out Lear's transformation from a man full of pride and ignorance and a fool himself to a man who becomes wise through his humility. The fool remains by Lear's side despite his growing insanity in the third act. Ironically, as Lear's insanity increases, so does his wisdom—until he is able to see wisdom on his own without the fool.

Shakespeare chooses to express the ongoing theme of fools having wisdom and wise choices appearing foolish through a reversal in the hierarchy of Fool and King, the use of "moral fool[ishness]," and the ignorant decisions of Lear. Cordelia Source Reversal in Hieracrhy Reversal in hierarchy plays a central part in the king and the fool's relationship. The fool assists Lear in gaining wisdom and humility. He is the only person from whom the king accepts blatant honesty and criticism from.

Therefore, through the use of humor, the fool is able to discuss serious subjects without the king feeling defensive. He does so when he says, "All thy other titles thou hast given away; that thou wast born with.

It is not until Lear has become completely mad that he begins to make wise choices. Lear needed this reversal in roles in order to develop as a character. The fool is very aware of this reversal in hierarchy, as he makes clear many times throughout the play. By giving away his kingdom, the king has made himself obsolete and without a role in society.

Again, the fool deliberately refers to the reversal an examination of king lear by william shakespeare hierarchy when he says, "There, an examination of king lear by william shakespeare my coxcomb.

Why this fellow has banished two on's daughters, and did the third a blessing against his will. That sir which serves and seeks for gain, And follows but for form, Will pack when it begins to rain And leave thee in the storm. But I will tarry; the fool will stay, And let the wise man fly.

The knave turns fool that runs away; The fool no knave, perdy. By stating that "the fool" is "no knave" and the "knave turns fool" shows that he is very aware of the reversal. The words knave and fool often are used to describe the same type of person, although they are not synonyms.

If he were a servant that was only there for the material gain, he would have abandoned Lear when things became difficult. The fool is doing what he believes is right. He recognizes that he is one of the few sources of wisdom that the king listens to; therefore, he declares that he will remain faithful to the king when he says, "but I will tarry, the fool will stay.

Fortunately for Lear, the fool remains by Lear's side, acting as a source of wisdom until the third act, after which the fool no longer appears in the play again. This does not indicate that wisdom has left Lear. In fact, it means quite the opposite. Even though King Lear is becoming more and more insane, he begins proving his wisdom. For instance, when he reunites with Cordelia, he states, "I am a very foolish fond old man.

He now sees Goneril and Regan for the cruel individuals they are. Goneril views Albany as a fool because he places his morals before his goals.

She feels that one should do whatever they can in order to get a desired outcome. Morals Used Foolishly The idea that morals can be used foolishly is present throughout the play.

In his eyes, honesty is seen as a weakness rather than an asset. Therefore, it is "foolish" to be honest. Edmund feels the only way to get what you want is through deceit. He also feels that due to their honesty, his plans to usurp his brother's birthright will be much easier. From a worldly perspective, honesty seems foolish to a person who is selfishly motivated by money and power, which are merely worldly effects. On the other hand, from a religious or moralist perspective, it is seen differently.

Kim Pathenroth, a religious essayist, said it best when she states: Not only does he make this clear when he plots against his brother and father, but also after he has won the affection of both Goneril and Regan.

He says, To both these sisters have I sworn my love; Each jealous of the other, as the stung Are of the adder. Which of them shall I take Both?

Reversal in Hieracrhy

Neither can be enjoyed, If both remain alive… It is clear he does not love either of them. He is only thinking of his own lustful nature and what the women could provide for him financially; therefore, he misses out on wonderful parts of life that could be enjoyed.

Foolish Honesty Cordelia, on the other hand, recognizes that life has more to offer than financial gain. Her response is not foolish at all. Instead, she explains her lack of flattery by saying, Why have my sisters husbands if they say They love you all? Haply when I shall wed, That Lord whose hand must take my plight shall carry Half my love with him, half my care and duty. She points out that if her sisters truly love their father in the way they claim, they would not have enough love to share with their husbands.

Due to the king's foolishness, he believes her sisters' great claims of love and feels Cordelia's love pales in comparison. Despite the risk of losing her inheritance, Cordelia values honesty and risks revealing her appropriate level of love for her father. Just as Goneril and Regan gain their land and kingdoms through their dishonesty, Cordelia gains her goal of love and respect through her truthfulness.

The King of France looks beyond her loss of rank as he states, Fairest Cordelia, that art most rich being poor, Most choice forsaken and most loved despised, Thee and thy virtues here I seize upon.

Be it lawful I take up what's cast away. This beautiful proposal contains paradoxes that seem to be foolish at first. For instance, how can one become rich by being poor? What he means is that because of her willingness to be honest and to risk losing an examination of king lear by william shakespeare her wealth, she shows that she is rich in "virtues" that are irreplaceable, such as integrity and love.

Not all "foolish honesty" is as good as it is in the case of Cordelia. Kent speaks honest words foolishly while the king is angry and sternly rebuking a man who is of a higher authority. When majesty falls to folly. Reserve thy state, And in thy best consideration check This hideous rashness. Answer my life my judgment, Thy youngest daughter does not love thee least, Nor are those empty-headed whose love sounds Reverb no hollowness.

Kent's honesty could have resulted in death due to his harsh words to a king.

Examples of his harsh words are when he states, "When majesty falls to folly" and refers to his actions as "hideous rashness. Although he did finally get Lear to listen to him, it was only when he became dishonest by pretending to be someone else. While his speech is truthful, his timing and manner are unwise. Because Kent chooses to speak harshly while the king is angry, he does not bring about a change in Lear's perception.

Instead, Kent is banished. He chooses to banish two of the few people who remain loyal to him. His daughter even was willing to risk her life because of her love for her father.

It is not until Lear has lost everything, including his sanity, that he realizes his foolishness in sending them away. This foolish act is obvious to all. Goneril even recognizes it when she says, "He always loved our sister most and with what poor judgment he hath now cast her off appears too grossly.

She realizes that if he is willing to do this to his favored daughter, he may be willing to do worse to her. The hundred knights Lear insists on could easily start a palace revolution in such a society, so the hundred knights will have to go.

In this, the two women act wisely, even if their intent is void of scruples. Goneril again shows great insight when she exclaims, Idle old man, That still would manage those authorities That he hath given away.

Now, by my life, Old fools are babes again. She not only recognizes that he loves Cordelia most, but that banishing her is very "poor judgment. He not only transfers his "authorities" before it is necessary, but does so in order to be able to act as a young child again. She makes this clear by comparing "old fools" to "babes. If he had chosen to listen to those, like Kent, who spoke an examination of king lear by william shakespeare wisdom, he would have avoided the catastrophes that followed.

Shakespeare shows how when a person chooses to live a life of irresponsibility, there are consequences.

What is King Lear about?

The more responsibility that is given up, the bigger the consequences are. Michelle Lee, another Shakespearean critic, remarks that by giving up his power, Lear loses the ability to fight against his thankless daughters.

Wisdom does not denote social class, as in the case of the king and the fool. Those who should be wise may not always have the right answers, whereas people who are thought of as foolish may be astute. True wisdom can only be found in those who are honest and have integrity. Dishonest people confuse what is wise and what is foolish, as in the example of Cordelia.

Many may view her as being unwise because of the way she spoke with her father when he asked her how much she loves him. Although she loses her share in the dowry, she receives what she wants, which is love from her husband.