Loyalty To The King
In King Lear, famous author Wiliam Shakespeare writes about the King of England ́s slow descent into pure insanity. As the character of Lear destroys many relationships during the course of the play, only a few characters remain loyal to the former king. Without his power, many characters forsake the king and turn their backs on him. His family members and his soldiers leave him to survive the world alone, which causes him to fall into madness even more. Although many abandon him, a few characters choose to remain loyal to the former king. There are three primary characters who remain loyal to the king: his daughter, Cordelia, who he banishes at the start of the play; Kent, the also-banished right hand man of Lear; and, finally, the King's fool, who provides the exiled king with advice and reconciliation.
In the first act of the play, the insane king demands that each of his daughters describe their love for him, in order to obtain their portions of his kingdom. “Which of you shall we say doth love us most that we our largest bounty may extend where nature doth with merit challenge?”(1. 1. 3). Each of his three daughters proceed to give different responses. The eldest daughter, Goneril, tells the king “Sir, I do love you more than words can wield the matter,”(1. 1. 3). Regan, who is the middle daughter, tries to out speak her elder sister by stating “Myself an enemy to all other joys, Which the most precious square of sense possesses. And find I am alone felicitate In your dear highness' love.” Lastly the king’s youngest and favorite daughter Cordelia responds with “Nothing.”(1. 1. 4). She says her actions speak louder than her words, essentially. After her modest proposal of love for her father, she is banished from the kingdom. In an ironic twist, the two daughters who inherit land turn their backs on their father. Cordelia, the banished daughter, wages war on England in order to save her father. In her attempt to rescue Lear she is captured alongside her father. Post banishment, she attempts to rescue her father; not punish or abandon him like the daughters who he gave the kingdom to. Cordelia ́s undying bravery and sacrifice for her father shows that she truly cares for him, unlike her two sisters. No matter what, Cordelia still tries to save her father, even after how poorly he treated her. Even after she is banished from the kingdom, she still attempts to save her father, which shows how true her love for her father really is.
The King's loyal right hand man at the start of the play is Kent. This quickly changes when King Lear decides to ban Kent from the kingdom. Kent chose to stand up for Cordelia at the start of the play whenever she is banished, resulting in his own punishment. Kent, who is truly loyal to the king, decides to disguise himself so he can continue to serve the king. He states “So may it come thy master, whom thou lov'st, Shall find thee full of labors.” (1. 4.) Disguised as a peasant named Caius, Kent seeks to be a servant to Lear again, and follows the king and his one-hundred homeless knights across the kingdom. Kent continue to show his loyalty to the king, and at one point even injures Goneril's servant, Oswald. Lear has Kent loyally at his side, until his Kent is placed in the stocks for his actions towards Oswald. While Kent is away, Lear and the fool wander off through a raging storm. Kent, still loyal, goes in search of him. He finds him and leads him to safety. Kent stays at Lear’s side until the antagonist Edmund captures the King. Kent attempts to save Lear, finding the king only after his daughter, Cordelia, had been hung. Kent attempts to tell Lear about the loss of his daughter, but is ignored as he is still disguised as the peasant Caius. Kent's true loyalty is shown when he follows the king into death, without the disguise on. Offered partial rule over the kingdom, he chooses otherwise ¨I have a journey, sir, shortly to go. My master calls me. I must not say no.” (5. 3.) Loyal until his master’s end, and even in death, Kent always chooses to serve Lear. Kent ́s story ends when he decides to end his own life, preferring death over ruling the kingdom.
The last notable loyal character in the story is the king's fool. The fool is very important to the story, as he is the only character able to criticize Lear without fear of punishment. The fool is intended to entertain Lear, and in doing so he often makes humorous comments that represent Lear's actions in an attempt to get the king to change his ways. For example, while Lear questions who Goneril is the fool says “May not an ass know when the cart draws the horse? Whoop, Jug! I love thee.” (1. 4) In an effort to humor Lear and tell Goneril off he makes the statement calling her dumb or an “ass”(1. 4). The statement also serves as hollow advice to Lear, letting him know he is not in his normal order. The fool follows Lear all throughout the story until his unannounced departure. The Fool even wanders through the wilderness with Lear during a terrible storm. The king curses the storm and the fool gives him the advice: “Good nuncle, in, and ask thy daughters blessing. Here’s a night pities neither wise man nor fool.” (2. 3) or to ask his daughters for pity and shelter, but the king denies. The fool does not leave, instead he stays true to his master and stays in the storm until Kent’s arrival.
The character of King Lear is simply insane, and throughout the story he becomes a mad man who has lost his power to his two daughters. His story is a tragedy brought on by characters who betray him and characters who remain loyal to him. The Shakespeare play is of course a tragedy, so it must end in death, but the loyalty of Kent shows even past the point of Lear’s death. His servant and right hand man display lifelong companionship to Lear, and Kent even proceeds to take his own life rather than rule his master’s kingdom. The loyalty shown by Lear’s daughter Cordelia is her attempt to save him from her sisters and return to him his kingdom. She risks, and loses her own life in order to protect her father, as she knows he cannot save himself. Lear’s Fool, being one of the best allies to the king, proves his unrivaled support through his advising and companionship through all of Lear's trying times. He provides the king with insight until his unannounced departure. The fool goes unmentioned until the final scene in which Lear stated "And my poor fool is hanged" (5.3.) The tragedy ends with the King’s death. Around him are characters who brought upon his undoing, and those who remained loyal to him and attempted to prevent it.
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