Lear is the king of Britain. He decides to give away his kingdom to his three daughters because he is aged. Before he gives his kingdom to either of them, they must first express their love for him. He puts them to a test, promising to give the greatest share to the daughter who loves him most. Regan and Goneril flatter their father by describing their immense love for him in exaggerated words. On the other hand Cordelia, Lear's favorite and youngest daughter refuses to speak saying that no amount of words would express her love for her father. Lear is enraged, and he disowns Cordelia. The king of France, who was courting Cordelia at the time, agrees to marry her even without the title of princess or land. Lear sends his daughter away to be married to the king of France without his blessing.
Goneril and Regan plan to strip away the little remaining power their father has. Soon, Lear learns that he made a bad decision giving his kingdom away to his daughters. The harsh reality of his daughters' betrayal makes Lear lose his sanity gradually. He flees his daughters' houses and wonders outside during a great storm. He is accompanied by his Fool and Kent a loyal nobleman who disguised himself as a peasant, Caius.
At the same time, Gloucester, an elderly nobleman, is experiencing a family crisis. His illegitimate son, Edmund, plots to take away everything that he owns by tricking him into believing that his legitimate son, Edgar, is making an attempt on his life by plotting to kill him. Edgar flees his enraged father and heads out into the countryside. He disguises himself as a beggar, Tom O'Bedlam.
Gloucester realizes that Lear's daughters have turned against their father, and he is saddened. He decides to help Lear despite the risks. He discloses his plan to Edmund, now his favorite son, who betrays him to Cornwall. Reagan and her husband Cornwall catch Gloucester helping Lear and they accuse him of treason. Gloucester eyes are gouged out, and he is thrown outside and forced to wander in the countryside. He ends up being led by his legitimate son, Edgar, towards Dover - the city where Lear had been brought.
Cordelia leads the French army to Dover to rescue her father. Edmund becomes romantically involved with Regan and Goneril. This brings jealousy between the two sisters as each wants to have him for themselves. Goneril's husband Albany is getting overly concerned about Lear. Along with Edmund, Goneril plots to kill her husband. Driven to despair, Gloucester tries to commit suicide. Gloucester orders Edgar to bring him to the brim of the highest cliff. Edgar saves him by pulling a wise trick; he leads his father off an imaginary cliff. The English troops led by Edmund defeat the French troops in Dover. Towards the end of the movie, Edgar fights with Edmund and kills him. Gloucester stabs herself after her treacherous acts are revealed to Albany. Before she dies, she poisons Reagan. As a result, Reagan dies. Cordelia is executed in prison following the defeat of the French army. Lear dies out of grief upon the news of Cordelia's demise. The sorrowful country is left in the hands of Kent, Edgar, and Albany.
Psychological Attributes Exhibited by the Aging Character of King Lear.
King Lear demonstrates a lack of conscientiousness at the beginning of the play. He exhibits the same character through his rush decisions, poor impulse control and lack of thoughtfulness. He values outward shows other than reality. His test to his daughters proves that he values flattery other than true acts of love. Lear is clearly blind as he chooses to ignore Cordelia's honesty and true devotion to him. He forgets too quickly that Cordelia is his favorite daughter. He chooses to value Regan's and Goneril's fawning other than believing in Cordelia's love for him. He ends up designating his kingdom to Goneril and Reagan, which proves to be costly in the end. King Lear demonstrates a lack of thoughtfulness through these acts. He exhibits poor impulse control by banishing his daughter Cordelia from the kingdom and by getting overly excited over Regan's and Goneril's flattery. His decision to divide his kingdom without much thought and consideration was hasty and reckless. (Hooyman&Kiyak A.2011).
Cordelia remains silent during the love test while her sisters flatter their father. Cordelia says that no amount of words can express her love for her father. She adds that if Goneril and Regan loved their father as much as they said neither would have gotten married. This angers his father, King Lear. King Lear exhibits cruelty by disowning Cordelia. He does not seem to take considerations in his actions, but he lets his impulses take control. Moreover, Lear sends Cordelia away to France to get married and refuses to give her his blessing. Kent is a loyal nobleman who had served Lear diligently through the years of his kingship. Lear is also cruel towards Kent, who disagrees with his actions. Kent rebukes Lear for rewarding the flattery of his daughters and for disowning Cordelia, who truly loved him. Lear breaks into a rage and banishes Kent from the kingdom, giving him only six days to leave.
Lear exhibits significance mental disturbance. Through his sadness and emotional imbalance, Lear demonstrates some degree of neuroticism. His daughters betrayal pushes him at the edge of insanity. His daughter Regan put Kent in the stocks which sadden Lear as it is a disrespectful act. His daughters' refusal to allow Lear to keep his a hundred knights makes him understand that he has lost his authority as king and power of command. Moreover, they refuse to provide him with shelter in their castles. He lives in denial that has lost his power, and the realization of this loss makes him alternate between rage and grief that seem to be driving him mad. His rage is manifested where he curses Goneril. Moreover, he declares that he would rather live in the open air outside than live in houses without servants. Evidently, Lear is losing his sanity. He leaves Regan and Goneril in the house after declaring that he would not give up his knights. He wonders in the storm instead of taking shelter. While in the storm he addresses it as if it were a person. He curses the storm and challenges it to do its worst against him. His mind wanders from thought to thought, but he seems to return to his daughters memories he is fixed on it.
Lear resists Kent's effort to get him inside the hovel during the storm. Despite the discomfort caused by the storm, Lear claims that he does not feel it due to the mental anguishes he is experiencing. His anguish results from his obsession with his daughters' betrayal. He can only think of their indifference and their immense ingratitude. The Fool runs out of the hovel frightened. He claims that there is a spirit inside the hovel. The spirit turns out to be disguised Edgar, who complains that the devil is running after him and that he is possessed by demons who live in his body. Lear seems to have totally lost touch with reality as he sees nothing strange with Edgar's behavior. In his obsession and ranging thoughts between forces of nature, himself and the gods, Lear tries to remove his clothes but his companions stop him. This reveals the extent of his mental disturbance.(YouTube,2015).
While Gloucester leaves to find supplies (food and drink) for Lear, Lear's mind is wandering widely. He holds a mock trial with his treacherous daughters. The Fool, Edgar, and Kent preside over the trial. Lear's condition is worsening following Gloucester's blinding. Lear seems to be sliding deeper to madness. He declares that he will go for supper in the morning and that he will go to bed at noon. As the movie progresses, we see that Lear becomes completely mad. While Cordelia enters Dover with her soldiers, Lear hides in the cornfields. He swathes himself with flowers and weeds as he sings madly to himself. Cordelia consults a doctor to find out her father's chances of regaining sanity. The doctor recommends sleep and medication that aid in sleeping. Lear bumps into Gloucester and Edgar in the plains, adorned with wildflowers and weeds. He mumbles meaningless and irrational words and phrases to them. At the end of the movie, we see the climax of Lear's insanity upon his daughter's death. He even imagines that his daughter has resurrected despite the fact that she was beheaded. His loss of sanity and grief eventually lead to his death.
King Lear demonstrates agreeableness. He demonstrates a deep concern for other people's welfare. He sends his Fool into the hovel while he kneels down in prayer. Instead of praying for himself, he asks the gods to help those who are homeless and to shelter them from the perils of the storm. He rebukes himself for his selfishness and recognizes that he never took care of the poor who had no shelter to protect them from the storm. Edgar comes out of the hovel and meets Lear. Lear demonstrates a deep concern for him and asks him what resulted in his current situation. Edgar explains that he used to be a wealthy courtier who used to drink wine and had sexual relations with many women. Lear tears off his clothes in sympathy upon observing Edgars largely uncovered body that was clad in rags. Clearly Lear is empathetic towards the plight of Edgar and the homeless.
Lear exhibits humility as the movie progresses. Lear meets Edgar while he wanders in the storm. Edgar is barely clothed thus seemed rather naked. His humility grows from this scenario. He sees himself no better than a bare animal that was stripped of everything that made him feel powerful and secure. He also begins to question the social order that clothes kings with expensive attire and beggars in tattered clothing. He recognizes that each person is naked beneath their clothing and is, therefore, weak. He also exhibits humility by seeking his daughter's forgiveness.(Shakespeare-online.com, 2015).
Lear is remorseful. He regrets failing to recognize the plight of the poor while he was in power. He also regrets disowning Cordelia. Upon arrival of Cordelia in Dover, Lear refuses to see her because he is ashamed of how badly he treated her. After reuniting with Cordelia, Lear seeks forgiveness from his daughter. He tells her that he is a foolish old man and that it was okay if she would hate him for what he did to her. Cordelia makes a moving response that brings their reconciliation.
We see Lear's final act of compassion and love as he grieves for his dead daughter. He carries the dead body of his daughter in his arms as he slips in and out of sanity. He is buried in sorrow as he asks Edgar to loosen Cordelia's button as he thinks that she has begun to breathe again despite the fact that she was beheaded. This demonstrates that Lear does not want to accept his daughter's death and holds onto any hope of her resurrection. Lear dies after telling Edgar to loosen Cordelia's button.
Hooyman, N. R., &Kiyak A. H., (2011). Social Gerontology: A multidisciplinary perspective, (9th ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon. ISBN 0205763138 and 978-0205763139
YouTube,. (2015). KING LEAR by William Shakespeare. Starring IAN HOLM.. Retrieved 30 November 2015, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TQUUQcvgSF0
Shakespeare-online.com,. (2015). Shakespeare's King Lear: Character Analysis. Retrieved 30 November 2015, from http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/kinglear/kinglearcharacters.html
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