King Lear is a play written by William Shakespeare that tells the story of an aging king who decides to divide his kingdom among his three daughters.
Two of Lear’s daughters, Goneril and Regan, flatter him and declare their love for him, but his third daughter Cordelia refuses to do so. Enraged, Lear banishes Cordelia from his kingdom.
Lear’s actions lead to a civil war, and in the end, both he and Cordelia are killed. Throughout the play, there is a strong focus on the relationship between Lear and Cordelia. This relationship is marked by conflict, but also by a deep bond of love.
On one level, the conflict between Lear and Cordelia can be seen as a result of their different personalities. Lear is a proud and stubborn man, while Cordelia is more meek and submissive.
However, the conflict between them also arises from the different ways in which they view love and relationships. For Lear, love is something that must be earned through flattery and obedience. Cordelia, on the other hand, believes that love should be given freely and without expectation of anything in return.
This difference in views ultimately leads to the downfall of both Lear and Cordelia. Lear’s pride prevents him from seeing the true nature of his daughters’ love for him, while Cordelia’s refusal to flatter her father leads to her banishment.
The relationship between Cordelia and Lear, as well as the connection between Edgar and Gloucester, has several parallels that we can see throughout the play. Despite their claims of betrayal by both fathers, both relationships are similar in that both fathers feel deceived despite having only received support from their “disloyal” children. Another resemblance is that both fathers betray their actual loyal kids, but Cordelia and Edgar stay devoted and loyal to their parents even if it isn’t immediately apparent.
Cordelia’s relationship with Lear is similar to Edgar’s relationship with Gloucester in the sense that both fathers feel betrayed by their children. In King Lear, when Lear asks his daughters how much they love him, Goneril and Regan give grandiose speeches filled with empty flattery. However, when it is Cordelia’s turn to speak, she simply says “I love you according to my bond; nor more nor less.”(1.1.95-96). Because she does not give him the false flattery that he wants to hear, Lear banishes her.
He believes that she does not truly love him, when in reality she loves him more than her sisters because she refuses to lie to him. Similarly, in Gloucester’s relationship with Edgar, Gloucester believes that Edgar is plotting against him, when in reality Edgar is the only one who is truly loyal to him. This false belief leads Gloucester to blinding himself, just as Lear’s false belief leads him to banishing Cordelia.
Although both fathers feel betrayed by their children, it is actually the fathers who betray their loyal children. In King Lear, after Goneril and Regan convince Lear that Cordelia is not worth his love, he tells her “Here I disclaim all my paternal care, / Propinquity and property of blood, / And as a stranger to my heart and me / Hold thee from this forever” (1.1.118-121).
By saying this, Lear is essentially disowning Cordelia and banishing her from his life. He does this even though she is the only one of his daughters who has shown him any real love or loyalty. In a similar fashion, Gloucester betrays Edgar even though Edgar is the only one who has been truly loyal to him. He does this by blinding himself, which leads to Edgar having to go into hiding and assume a false identity.
Despite being betrayed by their fathers, both Cordelia and Edgar remain devoted and loyal to them. In King Lear, after being banished by her father, Cordelia could have easily abandoned him and gone off on her own. However, she chooses to stay with him and care for him even though he has treated her so unjustly. Similarly, after being betrayed by Gloucester, Edgar could have easily left him and never looked back. However, he chooses to stay with his father and help him even though Gloucester has blinded himself.
The relationship between Cordelia and Lear, and the relationship between Edgar and Gloucester have many similarities. Both fathers feel betrayed by their children even though it is the fathers who have actually betrayed their loyal children. Despite being betrayed, both Cordelia and Edgar remain devoted and loyal to their respective fathers. These similarities show us the power of loyalty and love, even in the face of betrayal.
Unlike Goneril and Regan who betray their father, Cordelia is the only daughter that fights for Lear and his Kingdom. She shows true self-sacrificing love and undying loyalty instead of despising him for banishing her.
In the end, it is this love and loyalty which redeems Lear from his previous mistakes. Cordelia’s relationship with her father is one that is built on honesty and true love, rather than flattery and deceit. From the very beginning, Cordelia refuses to bow down to Lear’s demands that she profess her love for him in order to receive a share of his kingdom.
While her sisters are more than happy to give Lear the false words he wants to hear, Cordelia instead speaks the truth, telling Lear that she loves him as much as any daughter could love a father, but no more or less than that. This sincerity confounds Lear, who had expected Cordelia to engage in the same sort of false flattery as her sisters.
Despite Cordelia’s initial refusal to pander to Lear’s ego, she remains devoted to him throughout the play. Even after he banishes her, she continues to love and respect him, refusing to speak badly of him even when offered the chance. This is in stark contrast to Goneril and Regan, who are quick to turn on Lear once he is no longer of use to them. In the end, it is Cordelia’s loyalty and love that redeems Lear from his earlier mistakes, making her the most admirable character in the play.