14 November 2013
The Untrustworthiness of Language in “King Lear”
Language is an essential part of communication in relationships and manipulation of people and situations. Using language to manipulate someone is a deadly skill and drives the story King Lear. King Lear let his two eldest daughters deceive him. Goneril and Regan lied to their father for personal gain, while Cordelia, the youngest daughter, stumbled on her words of love that she did not know how to express. Gloucester let Edmund, his illegitimate son, make him believe that his good and true son Edgar is plotting against him. Goneril and Regan both lied and manipulated King Lear so they would receive the most land. Both the sisters laughed and mocked Lear for being senile and for willingly giving up his authority. Edmund lied and deceived his father out of fear that he would not inherit anything from his father. Cordelia and Edgar were the true victims in the play. Both of them were in the dark for most of the story, while everyone else plotted and worked against their families. Communication is a key aspect in maintaining a healthy relationship with someone. In King Lear, every character has a flawed concept of language and communication.
The definition of language states that language is a method of communication, either spoken or written, consisting of the use of words in a structured and conventional way. King Lear and Gloucester are both deceived because of carefully structured language. King Lear was convinced that asking his daughters to profess their love for him using their words, would prevent conflict between them, but with his intention of avoiding conflict, he eventually created much more conflict than necessary. The first conflict associated with King Lear and his daughters was when he asked Cordelia to proclaim her love for him. This created conflict because Cordelia did not know how to use her words effectively to explain just how much she loves her father. As the story progresses, it is easy to see how much Cordelia loves her father and how he misinterpreted her words. This becomes evident from the start of the play. “Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave\My heart into my mouth. I love your majesty\According to my bond, no more nor less.” (1,1,91-93). “How, how, Cordelia? Mend your speech a little,\Lest you may mar your fortunes.”(1,1,94-95). The first quote is Cordelia telling Lear that she cannot put into words how much she loves him but that it is in her actions. The second quote is King Lear responding to that statement. He tells Cordelia he is not hearing what he wants to. Lear asked for flattery and could not understand when Cordelia spoke the truth. Gloucester was also betrayed by his son.”Edgar’s and Lear’s great suffering would seem to suggest that the need to mingle justice and love in parenthood cannot help but lead to a wide variety of tragic outcomes” (Schwehn). Edmund deceived Gloucester into believing that Edgar was plotting to kill him. This information is false because the reader is told from the start of the play that Edmund writes a fake letter and tricks Gloucester into believing he is good.” I beseech you, sir, pardon me. It is a letter from my brother that I have not all o'er-read. And for so much as I have perused, I find it not fit for your o'erlooking.”(1,2,35-38). This quote is spoken by Edmund. He claims that Edgar wrote him a letter and the letter was to inform him that Edgar was plotting against their father. King Lear and Gloucester both believed their children had good intentions even though they clearly did not. During the play, Both Lear and Gloucester realize that what they were doing was wrong. “I do remember now. Henceforth I’ll bear\ Affliction till I do cry out itself,\ enough, enough, and die”(4,6,75-77) King Lear and Gloucester represent bad judgment, lack of communication, and a false sense of security.
Language is a...
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