It is often said “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” and Shakespeare himself seems to agree with this old adage. In his tragedy King Lear he has many of his main characters go through an experience that takes them far out of their comfort zone to change them for the better. Throughout King Lear Shakespeare shows that man cannot be morally strong without over coming suffering.
At the beginning of the play King Lear is an old, foolish man. He is blind to the traitors all around him. Although he physically can see, he is blind to his elder two daughters’ treacherous lies of their undying love for him. He is also blind to the truth. He believes his advisor Kent and ...view middle of the document...
His pity for the poor and homeless is his epiphany. He discovers that he has been blind to this appalling situation within his own kingdom. He gives a charge out to the wealthy further in this soliloquy saying:
Take physic, pomp,
Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel,
That thou mayst shake the superflux to them,
And show the heavens more just (3.4.39-41)
As further evidence that he is a changed man, Lear gives his clothes to Poor Tom, completing his transformation with divesture of his old ways, which is symbolically shown through the shedding of his clothes. When Lear finally awakes in the French camp at the of scene four, he immediately says to his faithful daughter Cordelia that he is “a very foolish fond old man” (4.7.69). This verbal acknowledgment is the final step of his character renovation. Harriett Hawkins describes Lear’s transformation in Dramatic Judgment in King Lear: “He has learned to know himself utterly, and where he once insisted upon being protected and pitied, Lear learns to pity and to protect others at some of the very darkest moments in his life.” By going through the agony due to his own ignorance, Lear develops into a king with integrity and honor.
When the King is kicked out of his own kingdom he is ironically led by is Fool. Despite the fact that he is just a court jester, the Fool teaches Lear invaluable lessons, while also providing comedic relief to the play. Shakespeare has the fool speak truth and aphorisms to Lear, yet Lear does not understand. The fool calls the king a fool for giving his daughters all his land and leaving him with nothing except the title of fool because “thy other titles thou hast given away; that thou wast born with” (1.4.142-143). Lear in his arrogance cannot understand the simple joke. But how can the Fool be so wise? Before taking his position in the King’s court he was most likely a peasant who had to go through more tribulations in one day than Lear did in a year. This is evident through his less formal way of speaking and more common jargon. The knowledge gained from each challenge he has faced in life made him wiser and therefore a great advisor to the King because he saw things as they were. The Fool is also a very loyal character and sticks with Lear through thick and thin. He stays with Lear as something of a conscience as Lear travels through the wilderness. As a reward for constantly trying to help Lear see the truth, the Fool is the first character who experiences the transformed Lear: “In, boy; go first. You houseless poverty--” (3.4.31). Lear shows his new found compassion and pity first to the Fool during the storm. He has him go into the hovel first, before himself. The Fool helps transform Lear by using his own knowledge gained form self experience.
Edgar also goes...