The Two-Faced Cast Members of King Lear

When we first started reading King Lear it was hard to wrap around how we were going to connect terms that seemed so economical, to something so set in the past. What amazed me was the fact that they really did coincide with each other.  Terms like swap and liquidity have been broadened to reach new meanings in literacy. The term that I felt really was portrayed through the whole book was the term swap, the definition of swap is to give in trade, to make and exchange according to Merriam Webster Dictionary. Generally, when people start to realize that they can take or make something from nothing they get excited and will go to any lengths to do such. Even though King Lear begs to differ believing nothing will come from nothing (1.4). 

Looking at the word swap within some of the characters and their actions is what seemed to help solidify the definition of swap. The characters like the Fool, Edmund, and Cordelia where there interchanging, they’re “supposed” or presupposed beliefs that were placed upon them. In ways that were unsettling to King Lear.  The fool had the job generally of keeping the crowd happy and amused; even if that meant pointing out the remarks about King Lear. At the beginning of the text in Act 1 scene 4, the Fool is just roasting, everyone in this situation, “May not an ass know when the cart draws the horse? Whoop, Jug, I love thee!” here the fool is clearly messing with the family and making fun of them.   Around halfway through the play, the fool starts to try to guide King Lear in the right direction, but since the fool was not normally taken seriously King Lear did not know to believe him. How could King Lear just all of a sudden up and believe someone if all they have done prior was made fun of you, a light of situations?  In Act 3, scene 6 the fool says the line, “He is mad that trusts in the tameness of a wolf, a horse’s health, a boy’s love, or a whore’s oath.” Here the fool was trying to protect King Lear from Edgar who was also swapping or exchanging roles with his other true self. The fool was then caught in a predicament because no matter how hard he tried he had the reputation of being a funny guy, jokester, and when he started to try to be serious and swap positions to protect King Lear, Lear didn’t realize what was happening because it was unusual. 

This little portion matters because once Lear falls for the hook of Poor Tom, he will get dragged into the elements of the outside, and the turmoil Edmund creates just to try to gain something from nothing. Edgar is the legitimate child and Edmund was the illegitimate child, which ended up causing a lot of drama as one could imagine. These characters and their swapping stories are just as important as the fools, Edmund had started out the madness by creating confusion with a note saying the other son was going to kill their father, then he told his brother Edgar that according to the stars someone was coming to come after him. When Edmund wants to exchange his life to be the “real” child so that when he kills off the family, he can get all the money. The problem with this was Edmund would get King Lear’s daughters all wrapped up in his nonsense as well and this was how the two families got tied into the mess.  It seems that the stories fold on top of each other and intertwine to create King Lear itself. Greed, lust, and more greed. Thrust Edmunds self-image that somehow, he deserved more than everyone no matters what it would take.  The last character who did a “swap” that surprised King Lear was Cordelia hers came as a real shocker to King Lear in an almost hurtful sense, because Lear was basing all of his self-worth, and she was asked to tell him how much she loved him. Cordelia did not feel obliged to respond to her father when he asked how much she loved him, and that shook King Lear’s perspective. He wanted to give her a lot of lands, he wanted to say I love you back, he wanted to hear those lovely things. Instead, she did the opposite, she altered her course, she exchanged her old ways for ones of a new, she said, “What shall Cordelia speak? Love, and be silent.”  

This was the turning stone for King Lear when he felt like his own daughter betrayed him and would not give him the “love” he deserved. He would soon find out everything can fall away from you very quickly.  The more I read on the more I realized that when one becomes unhoused, and out in the elements like Lear was during the storm how natural it is to go through a series of emotions, and confusion. Lear himself went through the shouting and jeering. Each person can handle these situations differently and at different rates. Looking back at the documentary of The Old Man and the Storm, with Mr. Gettridge, who was an older gentleman who had lost his family, and most of his house due to hurricane. How he coped was to come back and to rebuild because that was where he wanted to be.  Which when I read the text with this lens it gave me some sympathy and saw Lear in this setting, instead of seeing him as just a crazy mad man in the pouring rain, I saw him as a man who was struggling to figure out what was going on while everyone was trading identities. I saw him as a man who was struggling to grab back the control. I saw him as a man who was struggling to feel the loss of the betrayal of his family. King Lear was expulsed from his home. He was no longer wanted.   All of the swapping, trading, the exchanging, of personality traits, and economic gains were all actually very detrimental to Lear. They lead him to be unhoused.                           

These topics matter because there can be people in the world who are not looking out for yours, my, and others’ best interest and being aware of it is vital. Being exposed to real-world problems through literature and having a safe place to discuss it in a classroom is important for our growth as students. Without understanding and growth there cannot be learning, and without learning, we don’t adapt our ways to something better.

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