Through the course of the play, King Lear goes through a process of attaining self-knowledge, or true vision of ones self and the world. With this knowledge, he goes through a change of person, much like a caterpillar into a butterfly. In the beginning, King Lears vanity, and the image and exercise of power dominate his person. But a series of losses (based on his own bad decisions), a “fool” of a conscious, a powerful storm, a “supposed” crazy man, and the death of the one who truly loved him, clear his vision and allow him to see the himself and the world as they truly are. The pain and suffering endured by Lear eventually tears down his strength and sanity. Lear is not as strong, arrogant, and filled with pride as he was in the beginning of the play instead he is weak, scared, and a confused old man. At the end of the play Lear has completely lost his sanity with the loss of his daughter Cordelia and this is the thing that breaks Lear and leads to his death.
In the beginning, King Lear shows his need for praise is how he chooses to divide his kingdom among his daughters. The one who praises him with the most “gusto” shall receive the largest area of land. This is even more evident when you consider that he already has divided up the kingdom before the praising even begins. As evident as he gives each daughter her land before hearing the next daughters praise. Thus the who thing is just a show and an ego boost to himself. It is because of his love for praise that makes him react so strongly to Cordelia and Kent when they do not act as he would like them to. It could be said he is like a child who doesnt remember all that his family has done for them, but only sees them saying no to a piece of candy. In the play, this is shown in his banishment of Cordelia and Kent. Kent is probably one of the most loyal people in the room (not to mention his kingdom), and it is Cordelia that truly does love Lear. But because they choose not to contribute to this “ego trip”, they are banished. In fact, he threatens to kill Cordelia if she is found in ten days. Lear says,
“Upon our kingdom; if, on the tenth day following,
Thy banished trunk be found in our dominions,
The moment of thy death. Away! By Jupiter,”
This shows that at the beginning of the play, King Lear feels that his image is more important than the life of his favorite daughter. This hunger for “image attributes” is further shown when Kent presents himself to King Lear after being banished, but in disguise. Kent wants to gain employment as a servant to the King uses Lears gullability to praise in order to win the position. In this case, its the image of autority that Kent appeals to. The dialog is as follows:
Lear: Does thou know me, fellow?
Kent: No, sir; but you have that in your countenance which I would fain call master.
Lear: Whats that?
As with many of todays corporate jobs, saying the right things to those in charge can get you many things regardless of your qualifications. Because Kent tells Lear that he “radiates” authority, Lear gives him a chance to serve him.
“King” Lear continues to show his need for “ego reinforcement” with his keeping of a hundred “knights”. These “knights” are hardly around for noble deeds as one might assume knights to be doing. They are in fact are merely Lears fair-weathered friends who eat, drink, and go hunting with him. They provide a blanket of security by always praising Lear, and leaving him someone he can exercise command over. His need for them becomes more apparent when Goneril suggests that not keep them. Lear becomes extremely angry with her which is shown when he asks the gods to render Goneril unable to bare children. Lear says;
“Hear, Nature, hear! Dear goddess, hear!
Suspend thy purpose, if thou dist intend
to make this creature fruitful!
Into her womb convey sterility!
Dry up in her the organs of