King Lear’s predicament is on how to share out his kingdom among his daughters fairly and at the same time ensure that the daughter who loves him most get the largest share without discrimination. He expects to divide his kingdom amongst his three daughters; Regan, Goneril, and Cordelia, “Which of you shall we say doth love us most? That we our largest bounty may extend” (Bradley 1 Act I Scene 2). This witty test reveals the various traits possessed by his three daughters.
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Cordelia, who is Lear’s favorite daughter, is seen as a person with a sincere and honest character since she refuses to speak out, “I cannot heave My heart into my mouth” (Bradley 2 Act I Scene 2). More so, she insists that her love for his father is the same as that of any daughter and observes that if her sisters loved their father as they purport, they would not be married.
This angers Lear, who publicly disowns her, and as a punishment, he excludes Cordelia when sharing out the kingdom, “Here I disclaim all my paternal care, propinquity and property of blood” (Bradley 2 Act I scene 2).
Furthermore, he even marries her off without parental blessings, unlike her sisters. More so, Cordelia is not driven by the lust of the kingdom to deceive her father. She speaks out her mind without exaggeration and flattery.
Goneril is pretentious and insincere. She flatters King Lear to believe that she loves him as she purports blindly. However, her insincerity is revealed when King Lear visits her in her castle, and she refers to the king as an obnoxious guest and orders her servants to disobey and behave rudely towards him, “And let his knights have colder looks among you” (Bradley 3 Act I Scene 3). She even sends away half of the king’s knights on claims that they have been disorderly, “Men so disorderly, so demolished and bold” (Bradley 4 Act I Scene 4).
Albany, Goneril’s husband, is also not pleased with the treatment his wife accords the king. These actions make King Lear regret giving out his kingdom to Goneril, and as a result, he curses her to be childless, “Into her womb convey sterility, dry up her organs of increase” (Bradley 3 Act I Scene 3). The king opts to seek accommodation at Regan’s place, but again Goneril promises that she will ensure Regan does not accept their father and in the process her lustful nature and insincerity revealed.
Furthermore, Regan, who just like Goneril is unkind, pretentious and insincere, “I am made of the self -same metal that my sister is” (Bradley 2 Act I Scene 2). She not only refuses to host her own father but avoids talking to him. She willingly and secretly plots with Goneril to reduce King Lear’s servants as a way of belittling him and totally taking all his power.
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Thus, together with Goneril and against her husband’s pleas, Regan shuts the door behind King Lear leaving him in the brewing storm, “This house is so little: the old man and his people cannot be well bestowed” (Bradley 4 Act I Scene 4). Regan betrays the father’s initial character of love that she successively fooled him to believe. She was also driven by the lust for the biggest share of the kingdom to deceive her father that she loved him while in a real sense, she never loved his father.
In conclusion, King Lear makes a major mistake in entrusting his throne to his two daughters, who love him the least. Regan and Goneril pretend and flatter their father to win themselves kingdoms. The predicaments that later follow King Lear are as a result of his wrong decision. Thus, he should have believed Cordelia since she is the one who had an amicable character.
Bradley, Lynne. Adapting King Lear for the Stage. London, UK: Ashgate Publishers, 2010. Print.