Lear's Relinquishment of Power in Shakespeare's King Lear

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Lear's Relinquishment of Power in Shakespeare's King Lear

King Lear is an actor who can only play the king. Thus, after he has abdicated his throne, passing the authority to his posterity, he still demands respect and power, which he is unable to claim from any of his former subjects, even his daughters. And as a king with no kingdom, he is an actor with no role to play, the most loathsome of all conditions. Lear himself realizes this, and in scene 4, he cries: "Why, this is not Lear" (4.204). And later in the same speech, he says: "Who is it that can tell me who I am?" (4.209). Lear is stuck in his role as king, unable to act in any other manner and powerless to provide for himself, causing the ultimate downfall of he and his
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(1.124-8)

Lear cannot deny his ultimate role as the king. He desires to maintain his name and his rights as king, but to give control of the kingdom to his daughters and their husbands. However, this cannot work: "We know immediately that he is doomed to painful disillusionment by his assumption that his identity as king, father, and man, being fixed in the macrocosmic scheme of things, must remain unshaken without its worldly supports" (Egan 32). So, King Lear's exercising of this nonexistent power establishes his tragic flaw and the problem of the play: the power of the kingdom must reside in Lear only.

The consequences of this problem appear very early in King Lear. Near the end of the initial scene, Cordelia has already deciphered the evil designs of her sisters. As she is leaving them to live with her new husband, Cordelia says: "Use well our father. / To your professed bosoms I commit him" (1.258-9). She realizes that her sisters are using their pseudo love for their father to garner the power of the throne and to misuse the authority that Lear has given them. Cordelia also points out in this statement that she realizes that her father is stuck in his role as king, unable to provide for himself, thus needing the support of the evil sisters to care for him. And they have little use for him: "Nothing will come of nothing, and since he has