King Lear

King Lear - 1 Joaquin de Rojas Prof. Epstein Kent and Edgar...

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Joaquin de Rojas 10 /08/06 Prof. Epstein King Lear Kent and Edgar – Epitomes of Loyalty and Friendship Shakespeare’s King Lear is truly a tragedy in that every one of its characters suffers some extreme physical and/or emotional trauma. Both its villains and heroes confront immense grief, whether deserving of it or not, and many of their friendships and relationships falter. Yet amongst a sea of treacherous, arrogant, and spineless characters that cause such destruction, Kent and Edgar bear the lantern of virtue and compassion. Their loyalties to King Lear and the Earl of Gloucester, along with Cornelia’s loyalty to her father, are the only true and enduring ones. At the play’s onset, Gloucester and Edgar may love each other well enough, but the depths of their loyalties are yet to be tested. When speaking of Edgar, Gloucester says that he “tenderly and en- / tirely loves him” (I.ii.99-100) and, initially, doubts Edmund’s well-contrived lies, believing that Edgar “cannot be such a monster” (96). But only moments hence, Edmund’s machinations succeed in turning Gloucester against Edgar. It is probable that Gloucester initially loves and trusts his bastard son Edmund more than Edgar, even though he claims to love them both the same (I.i.19-21). This is made apparent by the incredible speed with which the father is willing to praise Edmund and denounce Edgar, calling him an “unnatural, detested, brutish / villain!” (I.ii. 78-9). Whatever the case, Gloucester is guilty of much; upon being tricked, he over-dramatizes his situation and acts almost as rash as Lear, displays bad judgment in placing his trust amongst his sons, and allows himself to be swayed by superstitions, saying, “this villain of mine / comes under prediction” (112-13). Although Edmund’s goal is to deceive his 1
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father, he ironically warns him, “if you / violently proceed against him [Edgar], mistaking his purpose, / it would make a great gap in your honor…” (84-6). Lear suffers a similar lapse of “honor” when he unjustifiably insults Kent, calling him a “vassal” and “miscreant” (I.i.164) amongst other things, orders his banishment, and threatens his life if he doesn’t disappear within a specific time frame. Lear’s culpability exceeds Gloucester’s since the King’s harsh reaction is entirely self-motivated. Edmund’s evil influence played a key role in putting Gloucester in bad terms Edgar, but no outside force or character encouraged the King’s animosity against his faithful daughter and servant. If anything, it was Kent’s honesty that exacerbated Lear’s anger, even though honesty is often regarded as an essential element of successful friendship. Kent is right when he says, “To plainness honor’s bound / When majesty falls to folly”
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King Lear - 1 Joaquin de Rojas Prof. Epstein Kent and Edgar...

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