Throughout Shakespeare's King Lear, there is a sense of renewal, or as L.C. Knights puts it, "affirmation in spite of everything," in the play. These affirmative actions are vividly seen throughout the play that is highly infused with evil, immorality and perverted values. These glimpses of hope seem to provide the reader with an underlying notion of human goodness that remains present, throughout the lurking presence of immorality and a lack of values. However, in the end it is questionable if these are true revelations, and if the affirmative notions are undermined, and thus less significant than the evil in which they are engulfed.
In Act I Scene I, the first glimmer of hope is revealed in the play at a time of madness, corruption and despair. In this scene, King Lear has created an environment of competition that promotes false flattery, among many other things as he divides his kingdom in relation to the amount of love his daughters profess to him. King Lear in his willfulness and arrogance does not see the error that he makes in equating love with reward, in this competitive environment.
Cordelia is the only one of the three sisters who cannot fully participate in the competition to gain her father's inheritance by engaging in false flattery. Instead of trying to out due her sisters, she merely describes her love in relation to their filial bond. Although her father views this as a degrading insult and banishes her, it is shown that through her filial bond, she loves her father with more depth and sincerity than her eager, self absorbed sisters. Cordelia emerges amid the moral depravity and social decay as one who is honest and true to her beliefs.
In banishing his daughter Cordelia from the kingdom and taking away her inheritance, King Lear is destroying the natural order of society. She is left abandoned by both her father and her presumed suitor, Burgundy. Yet Shakespeare rewards Cordelia's noble character with another suitor, the King of France. Despite all that has occurred in relation to being left destitute and friendless, France gladly accepts the estranged Cordelia as his bride to be and applauds her virtues that he states, make her rich. In introducing him to the play, Shakespeare provides the reader with another positive creature amid the powerful and morally deprived members of society.
The honesty and dedication of the Earl of Kent throughout King Lear, is another example of affirmation to the reader that lasts throughout the entirety of the play. He is introduced in Act 1 Scene 1 as he defends Cordelia and accuses Lear of exhibiting a monumental folly in banishing her. Although he approaches the discussion with a display of his admiration and dedication to the King, he to is banished. Kent suffers unrewarded for exhibiting morality at a time that embraced corrupt values, and an unclear vision of the worlds order and humanity. Kent sees clearly through this disillusioned society and unfortunately like Cordelia, is punished harshly.
Act I Scenes iii and iv provide the reader with a sharp contrast between the opposite states of morality and immorality. Shakespeare presents these scenes back to back, to provide the reader with a definite grasp of the values possessed by Kent. The first scene introduces the reader to a terrible perversion of values. In the next scene however, affirmation and goodness are described. In doing this one after the other, Shakespeare allows the readers to gain insight on the immoral acts embraced by society and the goodness embraced by Kent. He offers renewal to the reader after scene iii, in that he suggests that not all are as bad as one imagines after reading Act I scene iii. In Act I Scene III, Goneril is instructing Oswolde to insult her father King Lear, and to treat him disrespectfully in every way possible. Goneril does this to begin to take the power away from her father, and invest it in...