King Lear: Consequences Of One Man's Decisions


Shakespeare's tragedy King Lear is a detailed description of
the consequences of one man's decisions. This fictitious man is
Lear, King of England, who's decisions greatly alter his life and
the lives of those around him. As Lear bears the status of King
he is, as one expects, a man of great power but sinfully he
surrenders all of this power to his daughters as a reward for
their demonstration of love towards him. This untimely
abdication of his throne results in a chain reaction of events
that send him through a journey of hell. King Lear is a
metaphorical description of one man's journey through hell in
order to expiate his sin.
As the play opens one can almost immediately see that Lear
begins to make mistakes that will eventually result in his
downfall. The very first words that he speaks in the play are :-

"...Give me the map there. Know that 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 Unburdened crawl to death..."
(Act I, Sc i, Ln 38-41)


This gives the reader the first indication of Lear's intent to
abdicate his throne. He goes on further to offer pieces of his
kingdom to his daughters as a form of reward to his test of love.

"Great rivals in our youngest daughter's love,
Long in our court have made their amorous
sojourn, And here are to be answered. Tell me, my
daughters (Since now we will divest us both of rule,
Interest of territory, cares of state),
Which of you shall we say doth love us most?
That we our largest bounty may extend
where nature doth with merit challenge."
(Act I, Sc i, Ln 47-53)


This is the first and most significant of the many sins that he
makes in this play. By abdicating his throne to fuel his ego he
is disrupts the great chain of being which states that the King
must not challenge the position that God has given him. This
undermining of God's authority results in chaos that tears apart
Lear's world. Leaving him, in the end, with nothing. Following
this Lear begins to banish those around him that genuinely care
for him as at this stage he cannot see beyond the mask that the
evil wear. He banishes Kent, a loyal servant to Lear, and his
youngest and previously most loved daughter Cordelia. This
results in Lear surrounding himself with people who only wish to
use him which leaves him very vulnerable attack. This is
precisely what happens and it is through this that he discovers
his wrongs and amends them.
Following the committing of his sins, Lear becomes abandoned
and estranged from his kingdom which causes him to loose
insanity. While lost in his grief and self-pity the fool is
introduced to guide Lear back to the sane world and to help find
the lear that was ounce lost behind a hundred Knights but now is
out in the open and scared like a little child. The fact that
Lear has now been pushed out from behind his Knights is
dramatically represented by him actually being out on the lawns
f his castle. The terrified little child that is now unsheltered
is dramatically portrayed by Lear's sudden insanity and his rage
and anger is seen through the thunderous weather that is being
experienced. All of this contributes to the suffering of Lear
due to the gross sins that he has committed.
The pinnacle of this hell that is experienced be Lear in
order to repay his sins is at the end of the play when Cordelia
is killed. Lear says this before he himself dies as he cannot
live without his daughter.

"Howl, howl, howl! O, you are men of stones.
Had I your tongues and eyes, I'd use them so
That heaven's vault should crack. She's gone
for ever!
I know when one is dead, and when one lives.
She's dead as earth. Lend me a looking glass.
If that her breath will mist or stain the
stone,
Why, then she lives."
(Act V, Sc iii, Ln 306-312)


All of this pain that Lear suffered is traced back to the
single most important error that he made. The choice to give up
his throne. This one sin has proven to have massive
repercussions upon Lear and the lives of those around him
eventually killing almost all of those who were involved. And
one is left to ask one's self if a single wrong turn can do this
to