In the bible, the wealthy are generally known as the punished ones and the penury are known as the blessed ones. In the play King Lear, all of the characters exemplify either good or evil. Only one character significantly transitions from evil to good and it is King Lear who does so. His experience in the shoes of a wretch slowly unleashes the truth and develops him into a true, honorable man. King Lear’s dies which seems like a sad ending, but it is magnifying because he dies as a proud man other than a selfish and self-proclaimed king.
Throughout the play, King Lear’s character changes from a mad, raged king to a pitiable man that embraces the opportunity of experiencing life of the wretches more than his title as king. In the beginning of the play, King Lear depicts himself as a crazy king who only desires his title as king. “Meantime we shall express our darker purpose. Give me the map there. Know we have divided In three our kingdom; and tis’ our fast intent To shake all cares and business from our age, Conferring them on younger strengths while we Unburthen’d crawl toward death. ” (King Lear 1. 1. 5-40) Here, King Lear plans to grant his daughters, Regan and Goneril possession of the kingdom along with their husbands Albany and Cornwall, but still keep his title as king. Moreover, he does not want to put the work in as a king. By saying “darker”, he meant more secret, in which only his two dear earls, Gloucester and Kent know his plan. Also, “darker” has a negative connotation in the quote. This is a great sign of King Lear’s selfishness as well, due to the fact that he does not mind giving up the kingdom to his daughters, but does not have in mind of giving away his title to anyone.
At this time in the play, King Lear exemplifies his darker side and unsurprisingly, his character worsens. “On thine allegiance, hear me! Since thou hast sought to make us break our vow Which we durst never yet and with strain’d pride To come between our sentence and our power, Which nor our nature nor our place can bear Our potency made good, take thy reward. Five days allot thee for provision To shield thee from diseases of the world, And on the sixth day to turn thy hated back Upon our kingdom. If on the next day following Thy banished trunk be found in our dominions, The moment is thy death.
Away! ” (King Lear 1. 1. 168-79) In this quote, King Lear goes on a rage talking to Kent because of Kent’s disagreement with his plan to divide the kingdom and renounce from the throne. Kent tries to stop King Lear from going along with his plan to abdicate because he wants to continue to serve Lear, but Lear’s madness does not buy it at all. Eventually, King Lear banishes his loyal servant Kent from the kingdom and does so without a problem. Then he threatens Kent by saying, “Thy banished trunk be found in our dominions, thy moment is thy death”.
Lear is obviously in his wrath and not in a good state of mind as king. “Thy banished trunk” is Kent’s body, so if he found in the kingdom, Lear will grant him his death. It is very ironic for King Lear to say this to one who dedicates his life to serving King Lear. Lear continues to exhibit more and more of his evilness; it would be miraculous if he were to show a bit of sympathy for anyone else other than himself. Despite Lear’s criticisms, he slightly and unexpectedly transitions towards goodness.
When talking to his tyrannical daughter, Regan, he emphasizes: “Now I prithee, daughter, do not make me mad: I will not trouble thee, my child; farewell: We’ll no more meet, no more see one another. But yet thou art my flesh, my blood, my daughter; Or rather a disease in my flesh, Which I must needs call mine. ” (King Lear 2. 4. 407-10) Lear sees Regan and Goneril as the reason for his corruption as king. As they are cursed, he is cursed. “Now I prithee, daughter, do not make me mad:/I will not trouble thee, my child… seems like something unusual for Lear to say, even though he is still in a rage now because of Regan and Goneril. They frustrate Lear and take away his power, which is good because he becomes less of a king. When speaking to Regan in the quote, he mentions her as a disease in his flesh, which is not an example of kindness.
However, he still claims them as his daughters and does not disown them in any way. In addition to Lear mentioning his tyrannical daughters as the source of his corruption, he finally cares for someone else before he cares for himself. My wits begin to turn. Come on, my boy. How dost my boy? Art cold? I am cold myself. Where is this straw, my fellow? The art of our necessities is strange, And can make vile things precious. Come; your hovel. Poor fool and knave, I have one part in my heart That’s sorry yet for thee. ” (King Lear 3. 2. 67-73) Kent, the Fool, and Lear are in a storm. This is a major turning point in the development of Lear’s character from an evil to good man. This is also the first time he experiences the feeling of the wretches in the play.
It seems strange to him that being a wretch makes him value small things or his true needs. In the quote, the absence of anger or rage is a key component as well because it does not involve anything with Lear and his title as a king. Experiencing the life of a wretch begins to bring out the good side of King Lear. As a “poor man”, King Lear shifts morally, significantly shows compassion instead of anger and it plays a key role in the play. Correspondingly, Lear’s transition from evil to good plays a key role in him dying happy.
He dies caring for his daughter, Cordelia, who he hopes has not died, which brings happiness upon him as he dies. “And my poor fool is hanged. No, no, no life! Why should a dog, a horse, a rat have life And thou no breath at all? O thou’lt come no more, Never, never, never, never, never. Pray you undo this button. Thank you, sir. 0, 0, 0, 0. Do you see this? Look on her: look her lips, Look there, look there! ” (King Lear 5. 3. 304-9) Lear is currently in a state of despair, but he really sympathizes for Cordelia who he loves dearly.
He argues why should nature have breath instead of his beautiful, precious daughter, Cordelia. Even though she has died, he still has hope. He places a mirror by her lips, so if the mirror fogs she is alive. King Lear acts delusional here saying, “Do you see this? Look on her: look her lips… ” and dies while in the moment. Here, in the last lines of the play, Edgar delivers a message dramatizing the “burden of sorrow” in the deaths of Lear and Cordelia and even Gloucester’s death. “The weight of this sad time we must obey, Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.
The oldest hath borne most; we that are young Shall never see so much, nor live so long. ” (King Lear 5. 3. 322-325) Edgar reiterates the theme of feeling and seeing, referring to Lear feeling what wretches felt and Gloucester seeing life better than the rich and lustful man even though he has no eyes. Once again, this seems like a sad ending, but Lear dies a happy, great man and not a self-glorifying king. “The weight of this sad time we must obey… ” refers to the lesson of the poor man being the blessed one, whereas, the poor man shall die happily in acceptance of his wretched, precious necessities.
It is more powerful to experience life as a poor man with a kind soul than a wealthy king with power and an evil spirit. Throughout the play, King Lear demonstrates many examples of his dark side and good side, but only his good side prevails. Furthermore, wealth does not satisfy the soul, instead it causes corruption. Lear living life as the selfish king created frustration and anger, however, living as the poor man brought him joy and enlightenment. King Lear takes heed of his opportunity to experience penury and dies as a blessed and happy man instead of the rich, lustful, and miserable king.