King Lear’s Detrimental Swap

Economic terms are not just for Wall Street bankers. Every day, in one form or another, we participate in economic transactions. There is so much complex jargon that accompanies these transactions, yet three important terms are liquidity, swap, and expulsion. Investopedia defines liquidity as the degree to which an asset can be quickly bought or sold in the market at a price reflecting its intrinsic value. For example, cash has a high liquidity. I can quickly use cash to purchase a box of chicken nuggets at my local Wegmans that are sold at a price the companies have determined is reasonable. Additionally, Investopedia details swap as a contract through which two parties exchange liabilities from two different financial instruments. If I decided that I wanted a slice of my friend’s pizza, I could negotiate a swap where we create a verbal contract in which I give her five of my chicken nuggets for one slice of her pizza.  Lastly, Merriam-Webster describes expulsion as the state of being forced to leave by official action.  If my friend and I had conducted this swap in a Red Lobster, the employees could legally expel us from the restaurant as we were not customers and we had brought outside food into the restaurant. These terms name not only day-to-day interactions, but they also label larger and more pressing relations that can have much grimmer effects. Shakespeare’s King Lear begins with a swap which disturbs not only King Lear’s family, but England in all. While exchanging his land for his daughters’ flatteries, King Lear’s emotions undercut the intrinsic value of his land, therefore causing the expulsion of his truthful daughter and overall the death of his family.

In a highly important swap, Lear decides to sell his land (England) to his daughters, Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia, using a currency of their flattery. He determines that the liquidity of his land is high and could be quickly swapped for his three daughters’ declaration of their love for him. Lear decides not to use his prior knowledge about his daughters in this exchange. He thoughtlessly relies on the controlled statements from each daughter. It is common knowledge that incentives affect behavior. Surveys on the receipts of fast food restaurants purposefully include an incentive for completing the survey, such as a free drink, because they know it will convince customers to take the survey. Lear ignores this knowledge by offering his daughters a part of England. Unsurprisingly, Goneril and Regan fraudulently “purchase” this land using counterfeit sycophancies. They lie to their father by saying they love him more than they actually do. After hearing her sisters’ lies, Cordelia refuses to engage in this swap of flattery for land and power. She tells her father that she has nothing to say. When prompted, she tells Lear that she loves him as much as a daughter should. Her refusal to participate in the swap displays her belief that the deal undermines the intrinsic value of the land and power. Lear allows these ingenuine compliments in this swap for something of extreme importance, and Cordelia does not believe that the exchange is legitimate due to this. Lear is enraged by Cordelia’s refusal and her attempt to negotiate. As a result, he expels her from the family and the country.

King Lear’s power and regality allow him to make such impactful decisions without regulation. Even when Kent, his trusted advisor, asks him to think about his actions, Lear expels him as well. He uses these primarily surface-level interactions in this highly important swap. Liquidity is how quickly something can be bought at its intrinsic (actual) value. As a king who honors his country, Lear should know that egocentrically asking his daughters of their love for him will not create a scenario where England is intrinsically priced. Lear’s illogical acceptance of Goneril and Regan’s deceitful offer causes Cordelia’s refusal to participate in the swap. Cordelia and Kent attempt to appeal to Lear’s sensibleness but Lear’s emotions take precedent. In such critical swaps, emotional decisions do not result in fair trades. Cordelia and Kent also represent how truthful and well-intended advice cannot always be met with reason. Instead, their expulsion represents the ideology that sound knowledge can be overpowered by emotions and deceit. The long-term result of this underestimation of liquidity, corrupted swap, and expulsion of the most loved daughter is the death of King Lear, Cordelia, Regan, and Goneril.  

The traceable origin of all four characters’ deaths are King Lear’s initial trust in Goneril and Regan and his lack of trust in Cordelia after she refuses to participate in the swap. King Lear did not make decisions based on what he already knew about his daughters. Then, he refused to listen to those he said he trusted and allowed his anger control him. This corrupted economic transaction caused their deaths. Lear did not stop to consider his actions until the consequences of it had already started. Although probably not as important as Lear’s economic transactions, everyone experiences forms of liquidity, swaps, and expulsions in their own lives even if they are not specifically titled as such. Lear caused this chaos as he did not make logical decisions. He did not consult with those he knew to trust and most importantly he did not consult his own knowledge. With our power, we need to ensure that we are using what we know and who we trust to make educated transactions. In the U.S., we are lucky enough to not have a king like in King Lear. We are able to vote to determine who gets more power that affects our lives. We can swap our votes for who we think will make extremely important transactions. Unlike Lear, we need to ensure we use all of our knowledge, resources, and beliefs when making all, and specifically these, decisions.

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