Throughout the course of King Lear by William Shakespeare, we see the terms liquid, liquidity, and swapping interact with the concept of expulsion. According to the Oxford dictionary, liquid refers to a “substance that flows freely but is of constant volume, having a consistency like that of water or oil”, while liquidity is, “the ease of how quickly an asset can be converted into another asset.” The term swapping also plays a huge role in the topic around expulsion and this is defined by Investopedia as, “ a derivative contract through which two parties exchange the cash flows or liabilities from two different financial instruments, normally involving cash flow such as a loan or bond.”
One way we see the term “liquid” being present within King Lear is when Goneril and Regan were expressing the love they had for their father. Despite their true feelings, they conformed to what they knew their father would like to hear in order to get what they wanted, which seemed very liquid. They went on about how much they loved their father to ensure they would receive their share of their father’s land and power, despite their true feelings they had for their father. King Lear’s youngest daughter, Cordelia, however, was not liquid in her response to his request of unconditional love. Once she announced her love would not be as great as her sisters, we witnessed the liquidity of King Lear himself. As he was hoping for flattery and love, he was offended to receive the truth from his favorite daughter. The liquidity of King Lear’s power is present when he says, “With my two daughters’ dowers digest the third. Let pride, which she calls plainness, marry her”(page 15, 144-145). This quote says a lot about Lear and both the liquidity of the love and power he has for each of his daughters, that if they betray him then they will no longer receive any dowry. The love Lear has for his daughters appears to be conditional. If anyone contradicts his beliefs, he will no longer love or accept them. The expulsion of both his daughter, Cordelia, and his servant, the Earl of Kent, can be seen as a result of them bruising Lear’s ego. Being “liquid”, as Goneril and Regan were, this allowed them to avoid being expelled by their father’s liquidity of power.
Swapping is evident in King Lear in how Lear passes his land between different people based on who he’s decided at that moment his favorite is. He swaps back and forth between who is getting his assets, the kingdom, and never stays with a solid decision. This interacts with expulsion because Cordelia is banished, or expelled, from the kingdom while Lear keeps making different decisions. As Lear says, “Thou hast her, France. Let her be thine, for we have no such daughter, nor shall ever see that face of hers again. Therefore begone without our grace, our love, our benison” (page 25, lines 304-308). Because Lear is swapping his assets, those around him are having their lives changed as they wait for him to make a final decision. By giving his daughter to the King of France, he also swapped his love from Cordelia to his other daughters. King Lear says Cordelia is no longer his daughter and that she betrayed him, which results in him expelling her from both his family and his kingdom. King Lear at its core is a piece about loyalty, fraud, and trust. By studying these themes through the lens of liquid/liquidity, swapping, and expulsion, we as readers are able to more deeply understand not only the practice of analyzing a text, but also lessons which apply to real life. In regards to what question this exercise brings up, there’s the question of, “How will these themes present themselves in other works?” Going forward it will be interesting to see what contributes to someone’s loyalty and how the terms liquid, liquidity, and swapping are affected by how loyal someone is. This is important because there will always be themes or morals to look for in reading; practicing on King Lear gives us a look into how and why we do this exercise, so that we have the context for when we try it in the future.