An Old Man


In William Shakespeare's play King Lear, three of Lear's extended speeches relate


to the play as a whole and are significant in revealing his character. In Lear's extended


speech beginning with "Peace Kent," (I, i, 123) Lear rages over Cordelia's lack of servility


towards him. Later, Lear denounces both of his evil daughters, Goneril and Regan, in an


extended speech beginning with "O reason not the need." (II, iv, 263) Finally, in act 4,


scene 6, Lear defends adultery and condemns the evil that surrounds him in an extended


speech.


In act 1, scene 1, Lear's extended speech relates to the play as a whole and is


significant in revealing his character. After Lear asks Cordelia to show her devotion for


him in exchange for an "ample third of [his] fair kingdom," (I, i, 82) Lear rages over


Cordelia's lack of servility in her answers towards him. He views Cordelia as a


"barbarous Scythian" (I, i, 118) for failing to show him the proper respect. Lear


completely rejects her as his daughter and refuses to help Cordelia find a husband,


"[letting] pride" (I, i, 131) be her dowry. Lear disrupts the law of nature when he rejects


Cordelia's love "according to [her] bond,"(I, i, 95) and ultimately dies as the result of this


inept test of love. Later in the play, Lear gets "heart-struck injuries" (III, i, 17) after his


two evil daughters abandon him in his old age. He realizes that he made a huge mistake in


declaring Regan and Goneril the beneficiaries of his kingdom. The entire play focuses on


Lear's folly; he foolishly rejects Cordelia's "honored love" (V, i, 8) for the fraudulent


affection of Goneril and Regan. Lear is a foolish and senseless man whose folly causes the


loss of countless lives.


Furthermore, in act 2, scene 4, Lear's extended speech relates to the play as a


whole and is significant in revealing his character. Lear denounces his evil daughters after


they strip him of his servants. Disgraced and outraged at what the evil daughters did, Lear


believes that the only thing that separates man from the beast is "more than nature needs."


(II, iv, 265) Addressing the gods as a "poor old man" (II, iv, 271) praying for patience,


Lear seeks "noble anger" (II, iv, 275) as a resource to fight against the villainous plot the


two evil daughters bring before him. Lear denounces both daughters as "unnatural hags"


(II, iv, 277) and declares revenge upon them that will be "terrors of the earth." (II, iv,


281) Later in the play, Lear's anger comes to fruition when he goes outside into an


impetuous storm with an "endless rage" (III, i, 8) while naked. Lear demonstrates his


stamina and courage through the raging storm, demonstrating his unyielding desire to set


things right and defeat his "dark and vicious" (V, iii, 173) daughters plan. This allows


Lear to take action against his evil daughters and try to undo the damage of his folly.


Finally, in Act 4, scene 6, Lear's extended speech relates to the play as a whole


and is significant in revealing his character. In Lear's extended speech beginning with "Ay


every inch a king," (IV, vi, 109) Lear defends adultery and condemns the evil that


surrounds him. Tricked and manipulated, Lear learns that he is not "ague-proof." (IV, iv,


106) Lear believes that "Gloucester's bastard son / was kinder to his father" (IV,


iv,116-117) than Lear's daughters were to him. Lear's defense of adultery demonstrates


his belief that "copulation [thrives]" along with evil in society. (IV, vi, 116) Throughout


the play, an insane Lear acknowledges his role in the folly. Lear refers to Goneril and


Regan as his "pelican daughters" (III, iv, 77) and attempts to seek retribution for their


offenses through a trial, claiming that Goneril "kicked the poor king." (III, vi, 48) While


insane, Lear begins to grasp the consequences of his original folly and attempts to rectify


the situation.


Three of Lear's extended speeches relate to the play as a whole and are significant


in revealing his character in William Shakespeare's play King Lear. In Lear's extended


speech in act 1, scene 1, Lear rages over Cordelia's lack of servility towards him. Later,


Lear denounces both of his evil daughters, Goneril and Regan, in an extended speech in


Act 2, scene 4. Finally, in Act 4, scene 6, Lear defends adultery and condemns the evil


that surrounds him in an extended speech. These extended speeches add a greater depth


of knowledge into the psyche of a foolish, old king.

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