King Lear’s Warning

“King Lear”, by William Shakespeare, allows the audience to see swapping and liquidity throughout the play and can translate it into how it can stand as warning for future generations based off the actions of the characters.  The play is filled with swapping, which is the idea of a character changing roles as another along with the swapping of power.  According to investopedia.com a swap in terms of finance is, “a derivative contract through which two parties exchange the cash flows or liabilities from two different financial instruments.”  Liquidity on the other hand, still according to investopedia.com, is how fast an asset can be converted to cash.  This is evident throughout “King Lear” as many of the characters abuse assets that they have for power and wealth.  Connected to these two ideas of swapping and liquidity is expulsion.  Swapping and expulsion can be seen in the form of Edmunds plot to rid himself of Edgar and Gloucester and take his family name along with their wealth.  Liquidity and expulsion is evident in the characters of Goneril and Regan when they abuse their father’s instilment of power, and choose to expel him from his own home; one of their biggest assets thrown out after they receive their wealth.  Although King Lear is written in the early seventeenth century, there are lessons within that can be applied to the housing crisis in 2008. The biggest one being power needs regulation.  People in powerful positions can have a deceitful nature in which they hide that they are only out for themselves.

            Edmund makes it his goal to expel Edgar and Gloucester from their family so he can get all of the power.  He does this through swapping positions of power throughout the play.  Edmund is able to first convince his brother, Edgar, that his father, Gloucester, is mad at him and trying to kill him, while at the same time convinces his father that Edgar is attempting to kill him for his money.  This is evident when Edmund shows Gloucester a letter, he forged saying his brother Edgar is plotting to kill him; Gloucester reacts by saying, “Conspiracy? ‘Sleep till I wake him, you should enjoy half his revenue.’ My son Edgar, had he a hand to write to write this? A heart and brain to breed it in?” (Shakespeare 27).  Edmund is successfully able to deceive his father into thinking Edgar is attempting to kill him, and in doing so swaps positions of power with Edgar who was previously in line to inherit majority of his father’s fortune.  By setting these two characters against each other Edmund is successfully able to expel Edgar from his family, ensuring once Gloucester is gone, he will have all the power.  A second act of swapping comes when Edmund betrays Gloucester and gets him expelled as King Lear was.  Gloucester chooses to help his longtime companion, King Lear, who has previously marched out into a severe storm.  Gloucester puts his trust in Edmund when he tells him he is going after Lear, to which Edmund immediately sells him out and he is expelled as King Lear had been: “If I find him comforting the King, it will stuff his suspicion more fully.  I will preserve in my course of loyalty, though the conflict be sore between that and my blood” (117).  Edmund plots against Gloucester and plans to catch him helping Lear in order to expel him.  In this moment Edmunds goal has been completed showing the total swapping of power from his father’s power to himself. 

            Goneril and Regan’s relationship with their father, King Lear, shows the abuse of liquidity.  King Lear was one of Goneril and Regan’s assets but once he handed them power, they showed that the asset that was allowing them to live was no longer needed and decided to expel their father from their homes.  This is first evident when King Lear decides that his hundred men and himself will stay with Goneril.  After a short amount of time Goneril gets upset with her father and servant’s rowdy behavior and demands Lear expels fifty of his men.  Lear’s reaction is to go to his other daughter, Regan’s house: “I have another daughter, / Who I am sure is kind and comfortable” (51).  In this moment Lear shows he will be going to Regan’s, but they all convene at Gloucester’s castle.  Goneril used the liquidity she gained from her father’s power to expel him.  Regan receives a letter from Goneril before Lear arrives describing their father’s behavior which immediately makes Regan know that she will be expelling Lear as well; Goneril also travels to Gloucester’s castle.  When Lear arrives, he proves Goneril’s letter to be true and Regan asks him to give up his men saying, “I dare avouch it, sir.  What, fifty followers?  Is it not well?  What should you need of more?” (91).  In this moment Regan uses the liquidity her father gave her and puts a cap on the amount of men he is allowed to have.  This liquidly comes in the form of power over her father and eventually leads to his follower’s expulsion.  He then begins to ask to stay with Goneril again to which she says he must give up all his men.  Lear quickly turns back to Regan’s offer, but she now also says he is to have no men if he stays.  In a fit of rage, he leaves Regan’s castle entering a storm.  They choose to expel Lear’s followers with their power along with anyone who attempts to help him.  Regan shows this when she says, “For his particular, I’ll receive him gladly but not one follower” (94).  She uses asset she gains from the liquidity her father gave her to expel his followers.  This shows how there can be corruption within people in power positions in thinking about their personal gain.

            The two ideas of swapping and liquidity in “King Lear” could have very well served as a warning in the housing crisis in 2008.  People with power need regulation or they are prone to use it for personal gain when they are supposed to be helping others.  In the housing crisis this was the case with companies, while the people they were supposed to be helping struggled they gave out millions of dollars in bonuses to themselves; they were living lavish and letting the people who needed help after Hurricane Katrina.  In the show, The Old Man and the Storm, it documents Mr. Herbert Gettridge, an 82-year-old man who fixed his house after Katrina struck New Orleans.  He recalls at one point the abundant amount of paperwork he was forced to fill out, to which he still had to wait to get his insurance money to continue building.  While this was occurring to Mr. Gettridge and countless more, the corporations that were supposed to be helping them were using the money for themselves.  This is apparent in the movie Inside Job when describing the lifestyles and paychecks of corporation heads.  While Mr. Gettridge struggles, they abuse the power they have without any regulation.  Money is the liquidity, and the corporations were taking their assets and turning them into their bonuses, when it wasn’t meant for them.  Once Katrina struck, people in the position of Mr. Gettridge weren’t able to get money for months because it was being given out as bonuses.  Swapping is less evident in, Inside Job.  What should have been happening between the big corporations and the people in Mr. Gettridge’s position is giving back money instead of being deceitful.  They should have been reimbursed after losing their house, a financial security.

            “King Lear” could have served as a warning for the housing crisis in 2008.  It is shown through Edmund that people have a deceitful nature.  His scheme is to gain more power and wealth for himself, this is evident in the housing crisis in the actions of corporate workers.  These types of actions lead to expulsion, Edmund when he is killed, and the employees of corporations like Lehman Brothers losing all their jobs all their jobs when it went bankrupt.  Both Edmund and the employees seek personal gain at another’s expense.  The actions of Goneril and Regan could also serve warning that power without having regulation can be abused.  Though Lear’s request was unreasonable to have his daughters house himself and a hundred of his men, it allowed Regan and Goneril to abuse their power and take all of them away from him.  Without regulation in the housing crisis it allowed for corporate owners in power to deceive the public for their own personal gain.

            The play, “King Lear” addresses ideas that still occur in today’s age.  Edmunds deceitful nature is evident in the cooperate owner who committed fraud only to better off themselves.  If Goneril and Regan’s abuse of power was regulated, then they would not be able to expel Lear.  When there was no regulation in the housing crisis people used their power for personal gain to get what they want, like Goneril and Regan.  Edmund’s successful attempt to swap power ultimately lead to his brother’s expulsion.  Goneril and Regan used the liquidity they gained from their father to expel him and his men.  Both swapping and liquidity led to the expulsion of characters and families in they play and could have been used as a warning to prevent corporate deception in 2008.

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