The Effect of Immorality on Expulsion

Throughout reading King Lear by William Shakespeare, the concept of expulsion evidently reoccurs. The expulsion of King Lear initiated by his two daughters leads to a corrupt system along with the downfall of inheritance between another father, Gloucester, and his children, Edmund and Edgar. While reading through the play and understanding the reason for expulsion of family members, in what was once a close-knit family, the terms swap and liquidity come to mind. According to Investopedia, a source for financial information, swap is “an exchange of liabilities from two different financial instruments”. In the case of King Lear, swapping of liabilities is persistent between family members. Additionally, Investopedia defines liquidity as “the degree to which an asset can be quickly bought or sold at a price reflecting its intrinsic value”. Lear’s property is a liquid asset to himself that will be given in exchange for the love expressed by his three daughters, Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia. There are other forms of intangible swapping of liabilities that lead to expulsion, such as swapping of loyalty and trust. Immoral swaps and liquidity interplay with each other throughout the play leading to banishment and rejection. 

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The Corruption of Genuine Love

The opening scene of King Lear is the most important scene in regard to how much impact it has on what follows. Lear has decided to give up his properties to his three daughters, but only if they tell him how much they love him in exchange. Lear states, “Which of you shall we say doth love us most, that we our largest bounty may extend.” This swap that Lear initiated leads to the corruption of his relationship with his daughters, and their relationships with each other. Various instances of expulsion also ensue as a result of these corrupted relationships.

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Swapping Praise for Truth

During the first day of class, Dr. McCoy gave the students of English 431 the chance to define and think about some of the course’s main vocabulary terms to begin familiarizing ourselves with the financial world. Looking back, I’m thankful for this exercise because the terms we reviewed the first day of class are already proving their importance as they continue to circulate throughout class discussion. Although many words have been highlighted in class, two words that have proved their importance early on are liquidity and swap. I knew both of these words were terms used in economics, but in all honesty, I didn’t fully comprehend their meanings prior to class discussion.  

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The Liquidity of Female Cliches

It’s hard to escape the ubiquitous trope of power-hungry women turning against each other in the pursuit of a man. It haunts English literature across eras and ages; Shakespeare is no exception. He centers his dramatic play, “King Lear”, around the fallacy of women. The daughters of King Lear, Regan, Goneril and Cordelia, become examples of how this fallacy trickles into every character’s life. This play relies on both the trope of the jealous, greedy witch and the pure angelic woman to push the plot along. The caricatures of Goneril and Regan are based on what is referred to in this time as “the natural folly of women”. This concept was a common explanation of the inferiority of women until very recently (and probably still exists today in subtler forms). It claims that women naturally lack virtue, and therefore are dangerous if not kept under the supervision of men. The reader of this era learns that women are not to be trusted with independence or large amounts of power and wealth. Specifically, the men of this era learn to be suspicious of the claims of women and to analyze their motives critically. Cordelia is the good example. She is willing to lose her comfortable way of life seeking virtue and is revered in the end. Her sisters, who sacrifice integrity to inherit Lear’s fortune, are controlled by their ambition. These simplistic portrayals of women become take on a liquidity Shakespeare borrows from to craft the plot of King Lear. Without the assumptions that women are either lacking in virtue, or have divine virtue, and that they cannot exist outside of this binary, the play would not resonate. It also relies on the assumption that women, no matter how powerful, will fight for the attention of a man. Luckily for the success of this play, the patriarchy supports all of these assumptions.

I want to use Regan and Goneril’s dispute over Edmund to address the first trope of powerful women destroying each other for a male’s attention. The sisters resent each other for their mutual attraction to Edmund. Yes, he alone is the reason why the once rich and powerful sisters throw all of their fortunes away. Even with all the wealth in the country, a single woman is still nothing more than an old shrew. However, the sisters do have one thing in common with Edmund, and that is ambition.

Edmund, much like the sisters, tricks his loved ones in his pursuit of power. He sees Regan and Goneril as an opportunity to further his ambition to hold the throne. In more contemporary terms, he plays both of them to get what he wants but knows he eventually has to settle for one. He finds his opportunity as they begin to turn on each other to win his love: “To both these sisters, I have sworn my love, / Each jealous of the other as the stung / Are of the adder. Which of them shall I take? / Both? One? Or neither? Neither can be enjoyed / If both remain alive…”. This gives him a taste of the power he is craving, as he looks forward to deciding which sister will live and which will die. In a way, he is conspiring to expel one sister by killing her and marry the other. He carelessly shows interest in both sisters, underestimating their cunning nature. In one of the moments that Goneril sees him with Regan, she says, “I’d rather lose the battle than that sister / should loosen him and me”. Thus the seeds of resentment begin to grow, and Edmund’s power to decide who will live begins to wane.

            Act 5 of King Lear is when the mistrust between sisters becomes fatal, they take matters into their own hands. Goneril poisons Regan. However, as Regan is dying, Edmund is exposed as a fraud and killed by Edgar. A soldier who finds the bodies of Regan and Goneril reports to Albany, “your lady sir, your lady. And her sister / By her is poisoned. She confesses it.”. The sisters seal their fate the minute they turn against each other, fulfilling a trope that has encaged women for centuries. Sisters are supposed to have a bond stronger than most. They are family, and traditionally, family comes first. What can get in between family? Apparently a mediocre, selfish man can! I consider it satirical that two formerly close sisters are conspiring to murder each other in the pursuit of a man who they have only known for a short period of time. It is such an extreme version of the “women tearing each other down” trope that it seems absurd to me. Yet, this play relies on the assumption that there are only two roles for women, the evil seductress, or the heavenly angel. In this case, that angel is Cordelia.

            Cordelia, as mentioned earlier, is willing to sacrifice her way of life in the name of virtue. Rather than lie to her father to maintain a comfortable lifestyle, she prefers to be true. She risks her social standing for integrity; this is made clear by Burgundy’s decision not to marry her after she is disowned. But alas, she is saved by France, who tells her, “‘thou art most rich being poor’”. They marry, and Cordelia is elevated in status when she becomes the queen of France. The implication of this is that good comes to those who are true. This, if compared with the fates of her other two sisters, hints at the duality of salvation and damnation. Cordelia dies an honorable death and ascends to the heavens. Regan and Goneril die as a result of their own envy and weakness and are both thrown into the pits of hell. Cordelia is the model woman, and her behavior exposes the evil of her two sisters. This pure woman trope is another that commonly reoccurs in literature and myth. It is arguably one of the most confining roles, yet it is another role that carries the play.

            Cordelia’s tenderness with her father, and willingness to forgive him for banishing her from the kingdom, starkly contrasts the sadistic actions of her sisters. Regan and Goneril become ambitious and power-hungry once they have a taste of their inherited fortune. They lose control of themselves, as the fallacy of women predicts they would. Soon after acquiring their wealth, they exercise power for the first time, by expelling Lear, reminding the reader of when Lear banishes Cordelia and Kent. The sisters are using his former actions against him, but with a higher degree of cruelty.

            Regan and Goneril exercise their power over Lear much like how a cat plays with a mouse before devouring it. The sisters recognize that Lear is not of sound mind as early as his banishment of Cordelia and Kent. They even express concern to each other about the “infirmity of his age”. Yet, they don’t give this a second thought as they toy with his fate. They play mind games by telling Lear that he can have no more than 50 of his men at the house. For Lear, this is devastating because he has always relied on his men. Then, noticing his helplessness, they indulge themselves by questioning if he needs any men at all. This is a crushing life change for Lear, who appears to be emotionally and mentally vulnerable in his old age. When the sisters tire of antagonizing Lear, they send him out into the storm. Their actions can be seen as pure evil. They betray their own father, banishing him after he gives them everything they own, and send them out alone and unprepared into the storm.

As Lear is lamenting this treachery, the fool, who acts as a voice of reason to Lear, exclaims, “‘He’s mad that trusts in the tameness of a wolf, a horse’s health, a boy’s love, or a whore’s oath.’”. In other words, he is implying that Lear had poor judgment for trusting his daughters earlier proclamations of love and allowing himself to be influenced by the false speeches they make to honor him. Thus we have learned to be suspicious of the words of women.

The only survivors of this ordeal, Edgar, Albany, and Kent, are all loyal to men. They show the ability to resist the will of women. Albany is firm with Goneril, keeping her ‘in-line’. As she grieves Edmund’s defeat by Edgar, Albany orders, “shut your mouth, dame.” She attempts to reassert it by proclaiming, “the laws are mine, not thine”, but he does not give credibility to this threat, and orders a soldier to go after and “govern” her. He is able to keep the power naturally given to him, as a man. He refuses to allow Goneril to be his ruin. The two other surviving characters, Kent and Edgar, devote their time to the welfare of men. Kent disguises himself to support Lear after he is expelled, and Edgar disguises himself as a mad beggar to assist Gloucester. The only men who find themselves able to return to their positions in society are those who stand up to women, and help their fellow men. By the end of act 5, power is swapped back into the hands of men.

             The premises of this play would crumble without the assumption that women are either flawed beyond redemption, angelically divine or nothing without a man. The availability of these tropes become assets to the play. The natural folly of women becomes the underlying reason why power is swapped back into the hands of men. This is a cautionary tale where the women who know their place don’t seek out fortune, and those who do are not to be trusted. In the end, it is apparent that women have that place, and that is not in positions of power. Thus power is restored to men, and women are expelled from visibility once again.

History Repeats Itself

In my Expulsion and the Housing Crisis Course, Dr. McCoy asked our class to play close attention to certain terms while reading, watching, and listening to Shakespeare’s King Lear. These terms are liquid(ity) and swap(ping) and how they do or don’t engage with the concept of expulsion in the play.

After reading, listening, and watching to King Lear in its entirety, the plot reminded me of a show on Netflix that I recently watched, Son’s of Anarchy. *Spoiler Alert*. In Son’s of Anarchy, all the characters in the end of the show all die due to hatred, corruptness, bribery, and ultimately expulsion. According to Merriam Webster, expulsion means “the act of expelling the state of being expelled”. Basically, it is the act of denying someone membership or a sense of belonging into a group or organization. In Son’s of Anarchy, there were a lot of viewers who expressed their disappointment and unsatisfied emotions at the end of the show. We discussed in class how King Lear left us unsatisfied by killing a majority of the cast. This has made me realize how Shakespeare’s work is seen in so many modern films and literature and it represents how concepts like liquidity, swapping and expulsion repeats itself.

I will first begin by discussing how liquid(ity) is seen in King Lear and how it correlates with expulsion. Other than thinking of liquidity as flowing freely like water, Investopedia defines it using a financial lens; “Liquidity describes the degree to which an asset or security can be quickly bought or sold in the market at a price reflecting its intrinsic value”. Basically, liquidity discusses how one can distribute money among their assets. In King Lear, Lear distributes his land to his three daughters, Cordelia (the youngest of the daughters), Goneril (the ruthless older daughter), and Regan (the middle daughter). In exchange of this liquidity, King Lear requests his daughters to tell the room how much they love their father- the one who speaks the best will receive the biggest portion of the kingdom. When reading Olivia Davis’ The Endless Shifts of Power, Olivia discusses how in Act 1 Scene 1, Cordelia tells her father, “Unhappy as I am, I cannot heave my heart into my mouth”. Here, Cordelia refuses to succumb to her fathers request which leads the her being expelled from the family dynamic and receives none of the assets.

To get a better sense of liquidity, I will now discuss how this concept repeats itself in Son’s of Anarchy as well. In this Netflix show, the main character Jax Teller eventually marries an outsider of the biker gang, Dr. Tara Knowles. In the beginning of the show, Tara is notorious for not succumbing to the requests of the gang and refusing their offers and assets. Even though Tara and Jax are in a relationship, they refuse her membership in the gang leading to her expulsion. We clearly see how denying liquidity will lead to that individual being expelled from the community.

Swapping is another term and concept seen throughout King Lear. In class, we discussed that swapping means “taking part in exchange of/ borrowing”. According to Merriam Webster, swap is defined as “an act, instance, or process of exchanging one thing for another”. We see this concept of swapping in King Lear when Lear gives his power over the kingdom to his daughters in exchange for love and gratitude. However, as we know, Cordelia refuses this power which leads to her expulsion over the kingdom and in her father’s heart. To stay consistent, I will like to give my readers another example of swapping represented in Son’s of Anarchy. Within the show, we constantly see an exchange of power within the biker gang and how it creates chaos in the gang dynamic. There are points in the show where Clay, Jax Teller’s step father, refuses to swap his power over to Jax, who should be the leader due to the death of his birth father. Eventually, this leads to Jax being expelled from the gang a variety of times because he refuses to succumb to Clay’s leadership creating chaos in the gang.

It is very interesting to see how Shakespeare’s work of literature has played a role in a variety of modern films and literature. Concepts like liquidity, swapping, and expulsion can be taken literally or figuratively, but they drive the plot of any story or film. The most interesting thing about Shakespeare’s ideas manifesting itself into modern works is how we can easily predict the ending, yet are always surprised, disappointed and left unsatisfied.

The Price of Power at the Cost of Love

           The constant expulsion of characters throughout King Lear is the result of the mishandling of power as if it were a liquid or asset to be swapped. The term Liquid as defined by as “a substance that flows freely” and “not fixed or stable” and the term Swap defined by the same source as a “substitute one thing for another” is integrated throughout the play. The swapping of love for power only increases the liquidity of power causing its instability to which a consequence is the expulsion of oneself.  

           Several characters aren’t content with their current arrangements in life and prefer the position of others. These positions are that of power and this strive to obtain or retain power often comes at the cost of love. One of the most notable, yet incomplete swaps of power is between Edmund and Edgar. Edmund manipulates the love and trust he has received despite being illegitimate to assume the power entitled to Edgar’s position as Gloucester’s legitimate son: “Legitimate Edgar, I must have your land. / Our father’s love is to the bastard Edmund/ As to th’ legitimate” (1.2). This regaining of power appears to only happen since the swap of power and identity between Edmund and Edgar was incomplete and thus this power transfer took on the instable and free-flowing form of liquidity. Edmund risked everything to become more powerful than both Edgar and his father and while he assumed this role, Edgar was unable to forget himself thus unable to completely switch out of his power into the role of Poor Tom. Edgar recognizes his position as false first upon hearing of Lear’s expulsion: “My tears begin to take his part so much / they mar my counterfeiting” (3.6). Edgar, although he did not give away his identity right away, was unable to completely be Poor Tom when coming across his wounded father and because he is unable to forget himself he can expose Edmund’s fraud take back his position and power as Edgar.

           As a liquid, power can flow from one person to another and is open in both directions. Lear transfers his power from himself into Regan and Goneril expecting that he still can retain this power through his title. Cordelia is expelled when Lear’s flow of love and affection stops and is split between the two remaining sisters. This is where power begins to show itself in the form of an unfixable and instable liquid. This love, although conditional, is only given to Regan and Goneril in the form of power. These two sisters to retain this power, cut off the love they falsely flowed to their father. Cordelia refuses to trade her love for power by uttering false flattery and says, “I am sure my love’s/ More ponderous than my tongue” (1.1). Although this leads to her expulsion, we don’t see her suffering through this exile throughout the play as we do with characters such as Lear whose conditional love leads to his and Cordelia’s demise.

           Multiple characters were expelled, however, only three characters both expelled another as well as was expelled themselves. Lear expels Cordelia, by cutting off his supply of power to her and this choice to treat power as though it were a liquid result in his later expulsion by Regan and Goneril. Lear gave his two daughters the necessary means to physically force him out. We see both the expeller and the expelled again in Edmund. Edmund had been expelled from society as being an illegitimate and used his expulsion to fuel his desire to swap places with Edgar and expel him from society as well. Lear and Edmund both exchanged love for power and while Lear is humbled from his expulsion, Edmund is initially motivated by his. Edgar is the only character who was expelled but regains his identity and place through the expulsion of Edmund at the end of the play. He never sought to obtain power through the loss of love, unlike Lear and Edmund. 

           Although King Lear involves fictional characters placed in situations that may appear ridiculous from a modern perspective, the interaction of liquidity and swapping are common occurrences today as well. Love is often seen as a weakness, a liquid that can come and go whereas power is an unyielding force. People can often be blind-sighted by the appeal of power that they may not realize it comes with a price. Love is power or can be argued more powerful than power itself and people who trade love to live a life of only the latter rather than amongst those who choose the former are only expelling themselves in the end. 

The Endless Shifts of Power

            Though at first they seem unrelated, there are connections to be made between economical terms and the themes presented throughout King Lear by Shakespeare. The first of these is liquid, or liquidity. Investopedia defines liquidity as; the degree to which an asset or security can be quickly bought or sold in the market at a price reflecting its intrinsic value. While this definition focuses on finances, it can easily be applied in a more human sense to the relationships between several characters in King Lear. Similarly, the term swap, or swapping is defined on Investopedia as; a derivative contract through which two parties exchange the cash flows or liabilities from two different financial instruments. This term, too, can be interpreted and applied to the play in more ways than just this. The two terms introduced are interconnected and serve as a reoccurring theme throughout King Lear.

            Before reflecting on how the terms mentioned above are presented throughout the play, I would like to pose a question to be considered. Was Lear justified in his reactions to losing the power he held? The reason I ask this, is because there are likely many opinions on the topic, and the rest of my writing may aid in forming a conclusion.

            Immediately at the beginning of the play, Shakespeare introduces the first actions that are directly correlated with the remaining action of the play. Without hesitation, Lear jumps into action to decide which of his daughters will receive his power. Regan and Goneril express their love for him in exaggerated words that impress Lear. This leaves Cordelia, who to Lear’s disbelief, has no powerful words to speak of her love to him. “Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave my heart into my mouth”, says Cordelia in Act I Scene I. This unexpected response from his beloved daughter is the spark to set him off in the downward spiral that unwinds throughout the remainder of the play. Lear expels Cordelia and writes her off from his list of potential receivers of his power.

The first time a prominent ‘swap’ occurred that was notable enough to become the major outline of my writing, was the overall transfer of power from King Lear to his daughters. This was challenging for Lear, to say the least. It essentially led him to go crazy, as Goneril and Regan fight to obtain the power that Lear struggles to let go of. Within this is even more swapping; the swapping of which daughter he is fond of at that particular time. Lear is so back and forth, deciding which is most deserving of his power, which is ultimately always dependent on which daughter has the most to offer. For example, whichever is allowing him to keep the most knights is the one he feels loves him most. Following these examples is the last example of swapping in King Lear, which is the swap of roles from Lear being the one to expel Cordelia, to being the expelled. This is the most significant, as it directly correlates to the question at hand; when he was expelled and had reactions of essentially ‘losing it’ as he gave up his power, were these rational emotions? Was Lear becoming senile and losing his mind, or is it an expected reaction to act this way when the way one has lived forever is taken from them?

            Liquidity is presented in a similar way throughout the play. While it is shown in a metaphorical way, as expected in literature such as this, it can also be taken literally. There is a great amount of flexibility in who is holding the power at any point of the story. There is never the sensation of permanence, as it feels as though as soon as it is obtained by one character it is slowly slipping through their hold and onto the next. The power holds much value, which helps attach it to the economical definition of liquidity. However, looking at liquidity in a more literal sense, Shakespeare also incorporates storms and rain as a powerful element within the play. Lear’s emotions are intensified through the use of the natural element of water, and this play on the use of ‘liquid’ as a term used consistently through the story helps create a repetitive theme to follow.

            Along with the interaction of ‘swap’ and ‘liquid’, another term to look at is ‘expulsion’. Through the mess of swapping power, liquid emotions and family drama, Lear as well as the majority of the other characters are ultimately expulsed from the play. As all of the characters die in the end, it makes the audience wonder if things would have ended the way they did had Lear not been so inconsistent with his actions and made wiser decisions early on. Lear’s indecisiveness and shifting of emotions caused the expulsion of all those he loved, and tragically ended the play.

Lear’s Transactional Loyalty

Depending on the context, the words ‘liquid’ and ‘swap’ can have varying meanings. On, liquid is defined as “flowing like water” and swap is defined as “to make an exchange”. These definitions explain the most common conversational meanings of these terms; however, both liquid and swap have different meanings in the financial world. According to Investopedia, liquidity is defined as “the degree to which an asset or security can be quickly bought or sold in the market at a price reflecting its intrinsic value” and swap is defined as “a derivative contract through which two parties exchange the cash flows or liabilities from two different financial instruments”. William Shakespeare’s King Lear uses both the conversational and transactional definitions of these words, especially surrounding King Lear’s notion of loyalty. In King Lear, loyalty is treated as liquid, both in its way of flowing between characters and its function as an asset that can be used or misused in a swap between parties.

Loyalty becomes liquid because it flows freely, like water, from character to character throughout the course of the play. This liquidity of loyalty can be seen through Lear’s ever-changing relationships with his daughters. In the beginning of the play, Lear is most loyal to Cordelia as he “love[s] her most” (1.1.137); however, this loyalty is quickly lost when Cordelia refuses to flatter him. Within the first scene of the play, Lear abandons his loyalty for Cordelia in favor of Regan and Goneril. As loyalty flows between characters, it becomes an asset.

Even though loyalty cannot be directly converted into cash, it can be bought and sold for a price. Lear wants consistent loyalty, but he does not remain consistent in his own loyalty. This inconsistency of loyalty relates to Lear’s idea that “[n]othing will come of nothing” because since Lear does not give consistent loyalty, he does not get loyalty in return (1.1.99). Instead, Regan and Goneril abuse Lear’s nature by feigning loyalty to Lear for their own gain. In return for their loyalty, Lear gives them land. This transaction shows that loyalty functions as a liquid asset that can be swapped.

The transactions between Regan, Goneril, and Lear shows that love, even when fraudulent, can be exchanged for loyalty. When love is exchanged for loyalty, Regan, Goneril, and Lear partake in a swap; however, since Regan and Goneril’s love—or at least the extent of it—is dishonest, Lear is being misled at his own detriment. In this particular example of a swap, Lear does not totally consent to the terms of the swap. Yet, later in the play, Lear initiates another swap with Regan and Goneril.

In Act 2, Lear attempts to exchange loyalty for personal and financial gain. He attempts to negotiate with Regan and Goneril to determine which of his daughters will allow him to keep the most of his men. To keep his men is a sign of loyalty to Lear, so whichever daughter will allow him to keep the most men will receive loyalty in return. Initially, Goneril offers Lear to keep half of his men, and Regan suggests that he only keep “five-and-twenty” (2.4.285). As Lear attempts to negotiate with his daughters, the number of men that they will allow him to keep diminishes. At this point, Lear’s loyalty to his daughters, and their loyalty to him, diminishes as well. Just as loyalty can be swapped for personal and financial gain, a lack of loyalty can be exchanged for expulsion.

Due to his liquid loyalty and the swaps of loyalty that Lear makes with his daughters, he eventually is expelled into the storm. When Lear’s liquid loyalty is misplaced and subsequently lost, it is replaced with another liquid in the form of rain. The rain and the flood symbolize Lear’s loss of his liquid assets, as he is now homeless in the storm. Lear’s expulsion forces him to rethink his actions previous to being cast out in the storm. He realizes that he has been disloyal to his people, and as he experiences “what wretches feel” he acknowledges that he should have taken better care of the homeless while he was king, since they have no protection from storms (3.4.39). In spite of Lear’s insanity, he manages to look beyond his own past privilege and supernumerary wealth. Lear’s self-reflection is one of his human responses to his expulsion.

Lear’s self-reflection continues when his liquid loyalty once again flows back to Cordelia. He asks Cordelia for forgiveness which he hopes to swap for the return of mutual loyalty between himself and his daughter. Lear’s expulsion made him realize that Cordelia has been his most loyal daughter all along. His loyalty, like the tides of ocean, “ebb and flow by th’ moon” (5.3.20). Although the constant swapping of his liquid-like loyalty Lear lost all of his liquid assets, yet he regains the loyalty of his only truly loyal daughter.

Overall, in King Lear Shakespeare uses both the conversational and transactional definitions of ‘liquid’ and ‘swap’ to emphasize the nature of King Lear’s loyalty. Throughout the play, loyalty flows between characters and can be used as a commodity to achieve personal and financial gain. Loyalty is used and abused in transactional exchanges between parties, and is treated as both an asset and a liability. Due to his temporarily misplaced loyalty, Lear swaps his liquid financial assets for the liquidity of rain once he is expulsed; the liquidity of his loyalty is his fatal flaw. Through his expulsion, however, Lear is able to self-reflect upon his past mistakes and realize who he should have been loyal to all along. 

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.

Opening Your Eyes to Different Ways of Seeing

As with anything in life, there are always multiple ways of seeing or understanding things. Take our key terms for the class for example. As we quickly discovered, there are multiple definitions for each of them. Liquid can be defined as a free flowing substance of consistency such as water, but if you spoke to someone involved in finances they might tell you that it can also refer to something that is easily convertible into cash. Someone else might tell you that liquid could also be referring to sound and how it is clear, harmonious and free-flowing. Another one of our terms- swap can be defined as the act of exchanging one thing for another or substituting one thing for another. As with the two terms aforementioned, the word expulsion has varying definitions. One of which is the act of depriving someone of membership in an organization, another is the process of forcing someone to leave a place and a third is the process of forcing something out of the body. Just as there are multiple definitions that people can derive for the same word, there are multiple ways that people can see and feel during a shared experience such as simply being a part of a family, which is evident throughout William Shakespeare’s King Lear as the difference in these emotions lead to different forms of expulsion throughout.

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