Key Question 15: Comparative Essay
The Acquisition of Wisdom In King Lear and Tuesdays With Morrie
Wisdom is a trait mostly associated with the elderly and highly valued in today’s world. However, do all old men truly possess wisdom merely because they can see their own deaths in the near future? In both King Lear by William Shakespeare and Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom, the protagonists acquire wisdom after undergoing trials of sufferings and tribulations. Despite learning similar lessons, both of these men begin their quest as completely different people. Morrie, the main character in Tuesdays with Morrie emphasizes the value of family and love, while King Lear on the other hand sees these values as insignificant pursuits which at best can be used to elevate his ego. Morrie is disappointed by the way things are in his society; contrarily King Lear initially shows no sign of concern nor does he significantly care for his community. Morrie’s views on death suggest that it is a natural process that is essentially an ideal way to live, whereas King Lear still strives to live a kingly life in spite of his agreements to divide his land between his daughters. Although King Lear and Morrie differ completely in both character and beliefs, initially the two men come to acquire true wisdom and knowledge by experiencing a fact of life which one can regard as a phenomena; death. Both Morrie and King Lear differ in values when it comes to understanding the principles of life. Morrie’s beliefs are simple suggesting that death is a greater sentence in life rather than having lived without any love: “"If you don't have the support and love and caring and concern that you get from a family, you don't have much at all. Love is so supremely important. As our great poet Auden said ‘Love each other or perish’"(Albom 91). Morrie’s theory proposes that it is better to die than to live a life barren of love. Due to Morrie’s pervious lack of affection in his life as a child, it is for this reason that he emphasizes the importance of love and family. Conversely, King Lear believes that his family only exists to serve his needs. Lear’s conviction on family is exemplified when he questions his daughters about how much they love him: Tell me, my daughters
(Since now we will divest us both of rule,
Interest of territory, cares of state),
Which of you shall we say doth love us most,
That we our largest bounty may extend
Where nature doth with merit challenge (I i 50-55).
King Lear pitted his daughters against each other in a competition that not only satisfies his lust for the reassurance of love, but also to search for the best candidate for his personal benefits. His adoration towards his daughters is evidently conditional, even though Cordelia is his known favorite amongst all three of them. When Cordelia somewhat questions her father’s intentions he warns her by saying: "How, how, Cordelia? Mend your speech a little, Lest you may mar your fortunes" (I i 96-97). King Lear justifies his belief that love in a family is unilateral, that is, he should only receive affection but not give any, therefore contradicting Morrie’s beliefs and love for his family. Lear nevertheless realizes the true value of love and family when Cordelia returns to him despite his actions towards her, his realization however is too late as Lear quickly learns of her death at the end of the play. Meanwhile Morrie learns the value of love through his experience of lacking it earlier in his life. Both King Lear and Morrie learn to cherish family and life after coming to terms with death, and realizing the ills of their respective societies. In addition to life values, protagonists in both works of literature also have different perspectives on life and society. King Lear accepts his society’s hierarchy since he’s the ascendancy to the throne. When talking to his daughters Lear says: “With reservation of an hundred knights/By you to be sustained, shall our...
Cited: Albom, Mitch. Tuesdays with Morrie. New York: Broadway Books, 1997.
Shakespeare. William. King Lear. Toronto: Signet Classic Shakespeare, 1998.
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