king lear character sketch and analysis
The protagonist of the play is King Lear, who reveals human frailties and fragility. As a monarch, he wants to benefit from the advantages but does not want to take on his subjects’ obligations. So, he tests the affection and devotion of his daughters but falls victim to Goneril and Regan’s pleasing flattery. While he knows that Cordelia loves him the most, the sycophancy in which Regan and Goneril are involved gives him more meaning.
Eventually, though, it reveals that the flattery has taken its toll, leaving him at the mercy of circumstances when both Goneril and Regan abandon him after winning their share in the kingdom. It demonstrates valued flattery and appearances by King Lear with inefficiency to look under the material. His hubris lies in making wrong decisions about Kent and his daughters that, by the end, become obvious mistakes.
As a dynamic character, who learned the lesson that after making foolish errors, he should adapt to the circumstances. Unfortunately, there is more to his punishment than his faults. He wins the sympathy of the audience because of his gullible nature that he does not pay heed to the nature of his daughters. He turns to the Fool, the court jester for entertainment during the difficult times in his life. Finally, he accepts the responsibility for his actions that led him to understand Cordelia’s love and her faithfulness.
Cordelia shows qualities of compassion, allegiance, devotion, and, above all, integrity. She does not use manipulation of situations to achieve her own ends and surpasses all political shrewdness, unlike her sisters, Regan and Goneril. While she establishes her integrity by not going through the love test, she invites royal rage from King Lear, nevertheless. As proof of her true affection, he refuses to consider her silent love. The royal mistake has horrible repercussions.
Cordelia suffers and goes through an ordeal along with King Lear. It eventually contributes to the king recognizing her worth. Despite her absence from the stage in the center, during King Lear’s madness, the readers try to locate that character. When she arrives in Britain where she restores the lost order, the play again makes her core of the stage. In getting the order that regal error has brought into the kingdom in the chaotic world, she becomes instrumental.
One of the most divisive and dynamic characters is Edmund. He is also relevant and illustrates Machiavellian patterns and their use whenever time suits him. His impulses still transcend normal boundaries. Edmund is an illegitimate son, wishing for his denied power and property. That is why his betrayal of the system is not only against the present system but against the social structure as well. He, in truth, desires a status equal to Edgar, Gloucester’s legitimate son.
While he is seeking divine aid to obtain acceptance, he is conscious of his own efforts in this direction. Edmund surpasses in cleverness with no feelings for others, a remarkably self-made human. He displays a glimmer of compassion at the end, however, saying that both Goneril and Regan gave their lives for him. Therefore, his final apology at the end of Cordelia makes the viewer feel sympathetic to this villain.
Goneril is the eldest daughter and an accomplished villain with the power to show herself in every way while hiding her true emotions. However, after she accrues power and share, she turns a blind eye to her father, terming him an old child, and banishes him. She even supports her sister, Regan, who is also deceitful not to invite their father, King Lear, when he goes to meet her. Despite being married to a duke, she develops an illicit relationship with Edmund, coaxes him to slay her husband so that she could fulfill her desire of marrying him. Her suicide, however, may evoke sympathy for the readers and audiences that she might have realized the grave mistakes that she committed in her wedded life. She dies with regret of failing to do her duty as the eldest daughter of the king.
Another evil character next to Goneril is Regan. During Edgar’s infidelity, notwithstanding her compassionate and rational appearance. As she welcomes her father, she displays deceptiveness and yet remains polite. Her real nature, though, emerges when she closes her doors to her father as well. When she plucks Gloucester’s beard and inevitably succumbs to public pressure, she crosses the lines of indecency, relieving Gloucester of suffering.
Gloucester, an earl, is blinded by his illegitimate son, the lies of Edmund. Before Cornwall really blinds him and leaves him incapacitated for life, he is kept out of the loop. The Earl of Gloucester, unintuitive and lazy, blame stars for turning his destiny against him, absolving himself from any obligation. However, despite the fact that he appears as a mere boaster in the first act, his heroic act of saving the king gains him respect from the public.
The Fool or Court Jester
The character of the fool or the court jester is relevant in that he provides refuge to King Lear when Cordelia faces exile. He is trustworthy and also an honest fellow who, when he needs someone the most, supports the King. The cynical remarks of The Fool cause King Lear to see under the surface of things, making him a bit tolerant. It seems, as a character, that he functions in Greek plays as a chorus.
Edgar is important, despite a secondary character, as he takes the garb of a poor man, Tom, when Edmund lies to frame him. In that disguise, he finally unites with his father and kills Edmund to get rid of him. He is left with Albany by the end of the play to rule the country.
The character of Kent becomes important to the reality that when King Lear tries to disinherit the loyal daughter, he speaks of Cordelia. Later, as Caius, he returns to warn King Lear about other problems. When the right time comes, however, he reveals his identity and receives the king’s pardon. His goodness and grandeur come to the fore when he receives an invitation to have a share in the kingdom by the end, but he declines.
Albany finds himself in a strong spot at the end of the play, despite being Goneril’s husband and slow to understand things about himself, as he sees that things have immediately cleared up for him to rule the kingdom.