King Lear: Sense of Renewal


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 her own
glory and authority. In shifting loyalty from King Lear to Goneril, Oswolde is
disrupting the defined order of loyalty and servitude. Instead of embracing the
traditional order of servitude, Oswolde embraces the notion of power politics,
where authority can easily be given away. This scene is highly critical of the
state of societies moral values to each other, in familial relations and
political ones. It also begins to evoke the reader\'s emotions and encourages
them to sympathize with King Lear, as everyone seems to be harshly turning
against him.
The next scene reveals the opposite event occurring, a willing
acceptance of King Lear\'s authority, regardless of selfish attempts