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King Lear Essay, Research Paper

Many of the passages of King Lear, particularly those between the characters of Lear, Kent, the Fool, and Cordelia, all share a common theme. The imagery of nothing, as well as that of blindness, echoes throughout the play. King Lear is in many ways about nothing. However, Kent, the Fool, and Cordelia make him more than nothing does by serving faithfully, speaking bluntly, and loving unconditionally.

The first occurrence of the imagery of nothing takes place between Lear and Cordelia. In this particular scene, Lear asks his three daughters to profess their love for him. When Cordelia is prompted to speak, she replies ?Nothing, my Lord? (1.1.87). Here, Cordelia acknowledges that her other sisters are only putting on an act for Lear. Since she truly loves him the most, she cannot bring herself to praise him falsely. Instead, she says ?I love your majesty according to my bond, no more no less? (1.1.92-93). In this short dialogue between Lear and Cordelia, the word ?nothing? is said four times. What?s notable is that each time it is said, it implies a different meaning. The purpose of this repetition is to show the audience its importance in the text and to make the ideas and imagery that go along with the word to be clear. By replying ?nothing? when posed with the question of her love for Lear, Cordelia implies that there is nothing left to say since her sisters have already said all that there is to be said. This particular passage, with its usage of the word ?nothing? also takes on its own rhythm compared to the rest of the text. In a later passage between Lear, Kent, and the Fool, this imagery of ?nothing? occurs again. In the Fool?s first speech, he gives both Lear and Kent a little bit of his own brand of wisdom. To that, Kent replies, ?This is nothing, Fool? (1.4.126). The Fool tells Kent ?you gave me nothing for?t? (1.4.128). The Fool then asks Lear ?Can you make no use of nothing, nuncle?? (1.4.128) To that, Lear relies, ?Why no, boy; nothing can be made out of nothing? (1.4.130). These ?nothings? that occur again here all seem to have different meanings as well. Kent tells the Fool that his wisdom is nothing, since it seems on the surface to not make any sense. When Kent tells the Fool this, the Fool tells him that it was just free advise, and that he was paid nothing for it. When asked a question by the Fool about this ?nothing?, Lear says that nothing can come of nothing. What also noticeable in this particular scene is the idea given in the Fool?s line ?and thou shalt have more than two tens to a score? (1.4.124). Ironically, two tens to a score cancels each other out, leaving nothing behind.

Another recurring theme is that of sight or vision. As previously stated, Kent, the Fool, and Cordelia make Lear more that just a mere nothing by serving faithfully, speaking bluntly, and loving unconditionally. Although Lear can physically see, he is blind in that he lacks insight, understanding, and direction. Since Lear?s vision is unclear, he cannot see people for who they really are. When Lear becomes angered by Cordelia?s response to him, Kent jumps in and tries to reason with Lear. Because of his lack of insight and stubbornness, Lear cannot and does not want to see the truth in Cordelia?s and in Kent?s statements. He cannot see what these words really mean. Lear is fooled by his other daughters along with their proclamations of love for him. Kent, who has insight, can see through the lies of Lear?s other daughters, and can see that Cordelia is the one who truly loves Lear the most. Kent tries to convince Lear by saying ?Answer my life, my judgment, Thy youngest daughter does not love thee least? (1.1.151-152). Lear, with no insight, only sees what is on the surface, and cannot look beyond the words. In this particular scene, there is also a shift in the way Lear is addressed my Kent. This shows how his role is changing. First, Kent calls him ?Lear? (1.1.147), then ?old man? (1.1.147), then ?majesty? (1.1.151). Also notable in the play is that it is somewhat ironic that the character that is least blinded and has the most insight is the Fool. He has more wisdom and insight than others in the play realize. He is blunt, honest, and always says things the way he sees them. He might actually be considered as the voice or reality in Lear?s crazy life.

Themes that echo throughout King Lear are those of ?nothing? and blindness. Through the selected passages and others in the play, their importance is shown to the audience.


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