Kingship and Leadership in William Shakespeare's King Lear Essay

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Kingship and Leadership in William Shakespeare's King Lear

Jonathon Dollimore (1984) focuses on Lear’s identity throughout the play. ‘What makes Lear the person he is, is not kingly essence, but among other things, his authority and his family. As the play progresses Lear is forced to question his identity. “Does anyone hear know me?…Who is it that can tell me who I am?”.

Dollimore believes King Lear is about power, poverty and inheritance. Shakespeare focuses on what happens when there is a ‘catastrophic redistribution of power’.

At the start of the play Lear has a rich, powerful and complex social identity. He is King and Patriarch of his family. Being the king he was therefore
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The last line which Kent speaks here is a one word line; ‘Authority’. This shorter sentence is powerful and it emphasizes and demonstrates the them of kingship and authority in the play, especially in the first act. It is also noticeable that Lear uses the third person (the royal ‘we’) early in the play but later when he realises he is powerless he uses the first person (‘I’, ‘Methinks’). Shakespeare uses this change in language as it reflects Lear’s change is status from a king to “a foolish old man”.

Lear uses his authority to divide the kingdom, yet the king does not even possess this power. The power of the throne could only be passed following the death of Lear, however, he takes on this responsibility of doing so. Lear exercising this non-existent power it the cause of his hardship and turmoil. It causes him and his family their downfall from their status of authority.

Regan and Goneril use emotional flattery towards their father in order to gain power and misuse the authority that Lear has given them. Even though the power and responsibilities as king are transferred to Lear’s children, he still wants to retain his recognition as king.

“Only we shall retain

The name and th’addition to a king; the sway,

Revenue, execution of the rest,

Beloved sons, be yours: which to confirm,

This coronet
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