Swapping Power Leads to Expulsion

King Lear is a play in which many characters make decisions and take risks based on the liquid assets at stake, money and property, and attempt to swap places with other characters in order to gain liquid assets, this leads to expulsion. The concepts of swapping and liquidity are crucial in understanding the 2008 housing crisis, and the treatment of people as they have also encountered exploitation due to the decisions of others when the same liquid assets seen in King Lear, money and property, are at stake. The characters in the play treat each other as if money and property can be swapped for love and power. The swapping of these liquid assets leads to the expulsion of characters, leaving them with little to no power, money, property, or the love of their family members. 

The concept of swapping plays a large role in the expulsion of characters in King Lear as individuals are swapped for money, power, or property. Swapping can be defined as giving one thing and receiving something else in exchange. Investopedia defines swap as a “derivative contract in which two parties exchange cash flow or liabilities from two different financial instruments.” In Act I Scene I of King Lear, King Lear says to his daughters, “Tell me my daughters— / [since now we will divest us both of rule, / Interest of territory, cares of state—] / Which of you shall we say doth love us most, / That we our largest bounty may extend / Where nature doth with merit challenge”. As he is asking them to prove how much they love him, he is also swapping his love between his daughters, Cordelia refuses to do as he asks and both Goneril and Reagan give lengthy monologues about their “love” in order to receive power. Lear not only gives all power to Goneril and Reagan, but he expels Cordelia for her refusal to confess how much she loves him in exchange for power. 

Throughout the play it is clear that Goneril and Reagan are only concerned about their father’s liquid assets, gaining power and other material things, not about their love for him. Liquidity refers to the degree to which an asset or security can be quickly bought or sold in the market at a price reflecting its intrinsic value. King Lear’s property is very liquid in that he gives it away to his daughters, however he makes them argue for how much of it they deserve based on how much they love him. As seen with the way King Lear treats his daughters, power and love are treated like liquid assets such as money and property. King Lear is then expelled as he no longer has power, or property, denying him access from the things he once had such as servants, a castle, and his own family. 

King Lear and his daughters are not the only ones that represent the fact that swapping and liquidity are prominent to who has power which leads to expulsion. Edmund, Edgar, and their father, Earl of Gloucester, are another family in the play that demonstrate a representation of swapping and liquidity in relation to expulsion. Edmund, the bastard son of Gloucester, attempts to swap places with his brother Edgar, who is the legitimate son and has access to his father’s power. At the beginning of Act I Scene II of King Lear, Edmund reveals his anger and his ploy to swap with his brother, as Edgar is the legitimate son and will receive power and access. Edmund writes a letter in which he impersonates Edgar; “Well then, / Legitimate Edgar, I must have your land. / As to th’ legitimate. Fine word, “legitimate.” / Well, my legitimate, if this letter speed / And my invention thrive, Edmund the base / shall top th’ legitimate. I grow, I prosper. / Now, gods, stand up for bastards!”. This plot point demonstrates that Edmund swaps nothing for everything, or exclusion for inclusion, similar to what happened to Cordelia, Goneril, and Reagan. Swapping interplays with liquidity here as Edmund has tricked his father into distrusting Edgar, which leads to Edmund gaining all of Gloucester’s trust, power, and property. Through swapping exclusion for inclusion, Edmund exiles Gloucester and receives all of his liquid assets. 

The treatment of those who are expelled by individuals in power is gruesome and inhumane. One example is when Gloucester is left with no power, is expelled and his eyes are gouged out. Once Lear has been expelled, he is left out in the cold rain, and eventually sent to prison with Cordelia. In the end of King Lear almost all of the characters die, either by their own accord or by a member of their own family. King Lear’s death is due to his own choices, as he caused all of this demise by having his daughters compete for his liquid assets. The death of Cordelia who was the only character that truly loved him, causes Lear to die of grief without even realizing that he is the one who caused all of this suffering.

The lack of realization of those in power who cause suffering, is similar to what happened with those in power during the 2008 housing crisis. Individuals in power have a genuine lack of disregard for the suffering they are causing to those who rely on assistance during difficult times. As seen in the 2009 documentary, The Old Man and the Storm, once people lose everything, as these individuals did when Hurricane Katrina took away their homes and towns, they are left vulnerable to those in power. The assumption is often made that the people who lost their homes were lazy, or needed to “get jobs” when in reality it is because of decisions made by large banking corporations and powerful individuals through the exploitation of  liquid assets that they are expelled from their homes. Similar to King Lear, individuals are not treated as they are important once they are expelled. The only things that matter to those in power are liquid assets, money and property, not the people who are shut out of their own towns and homes, as King Lear was when he was trapped outside in the storm in Act III Scene II. 

Expelling people due to the exploitation of liquid assets is severe, which leads to the expulsion of individuals from their homes, and families. Expulsion is evident in King Learas Cordelia, King Lear, Edgar, and Gloucester are all expelled. The expulsion that occurred in King Lear is similar to the expulsion individuals felt when they lost their homes to Hurricane Katrina. When looking at King Lear and the effects of Hurricane Katrina, it is evident that corruption in the form of swapping and liquidity will continue to lead to the expulsion of others as long as there is an abuse of power. 

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