Essay on Importance of Nothing in Shakespeare's King Lear

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Importance of Nothing in William Shakespeare's King Lear


The Tragedy of King Lear has many important themes. One major theme concerns "nothing." The main focus around the discussion of "nothing" is that "nothing" is a many things. Nothing is what binds everything.

The first mention of "nothing" is when King Lear asks his daughters to profess how much they love him. The eldest daughters shower compliments upon him tickling his ears. Yet the Lear's favorite daughter Cordelia will only speak the truth. When asked what she can say to gain her a portion of land better than her sisters, she replies, "Nothing, my Lord" (1.1. ) He exclaims, "Nothing!" (1.1. ) and she responds, "Nothing" (1.1. ). Lear's answers, "Nothing will come of
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Then he asks Lear, "Can you make no use of nothing, nuncle" (1.4. )? This question should prod Lear to think of his earlier mistake of making a big ordeal out of Cordelia's "nothing." Ironically he responds, "nothing can be made out of nothing" (1.4. ), echoing what he said to Cordelia in 1.1. The Fool then tells Kent to "tell him so much the rent of his land comes to" (1.4. ). The answer to this, of course, would be "nothing." The King has given all his land to Goneril and Regan.

After Goneril walks into the room, he tells Lear "thou art an O without a figure" (1.4. ). An O without a figure would be a zero. Thus the Fool tells Lear that he is nothing. He continues by saying straightforwardly, "I am a Fool, thou art nothing"
(1.4. ). Remarks like this provide ample opportunity for Goneril to rebuke Lear for having an "all licens'd Fool" (1.4. ). In addition, the Fool calls Lear a "sheal'd peascod" (1.4. ). This is another way of saying he is empty. He is nothing.

These remarks provide a theme continuing throughout the story. The main theme is that "nothing" is what binds everything together. If Cordelia had not responded "nothing" then the King would be happy. He would have moved in with Cordelia and she would have supported him. Moreover, Cordelia would have kept her portion and would have married the Duke Burgundy. Thus, her "nothing" changed everything.

In addition, this nothing gives the play comic relief. The Fool…