King Lear: Self Inflicted Tragedies

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Ember Jenison
Mrs. Hinds
DE Brit. Lit. – Critical Essay
11/26/12
King Lear:
Self-Inflicted Tragedies
King Lear, written by William Shakespeare, tells of the tragedies the old king experiences. Lear loses his kingdom, is betrayed by his daughters, loses his pride and dignity, and loses the one daughter who truly loves him. All of these events could have been easily avoided. The tragedies that King Lear experience are of his own devices. Every event listed above are consequences of Lear’s own views, decisions, and actions.

King Lear makes many mistakes that lead him to his own doom. His first mistake is paying more attention to his daughters’ pretty words than their actual personalities and aims. When deciding how to divide his kingdom amongst his daughters, King Lear asks them the question: “Which of you shall we say doth love us most?” (line 50.1144) Lear’s intentions are genuine; he only wishes to divide his kingdom fairly among his daughters and give them all individual dowries. Lear’s eldest daughters, Goneril and Regan, proclaim their love for him with extravagant and very flattering speeches. Cordelia, Lear’s third daughter, does not use flattery. She is honest with her father saying, “Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave / My heart into my mouth, I love your majesty / According to my bond; nor more nor less” (91-93.1145). Lear expects the extravagance and flattery he received from the others. His expectations cause him to overlook the greedy selfishness of Goneril and Regan and the selfless love of Cordelia.

Lear makes a second mistake when he casts out the two people who truly care for him: Cordelia and Kent. Cordelia’s honesty enrages the king. He completely disowns her, stating that he loved her the most but she does not love him at all. When Kent tries to intervene and show him that Cordelia truly does love him, Lear ignores his words and tells him to be silent. Kent, knowing how wrong Lear is, still attempts to inform the king...
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