King Lear Essay

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King Lear

Siro: I am your servant, and servants ought never to ask their masters about anything, nor to look into any of their affairs, but when they are told about them by them themselves, they ought to serve them faithfully, so I have done and so I shall do.

Siro asserts in Mandragola that the main duty of a loyal servant- and indeed, of others who serve, such as vassal, spouse and child who owe loyalty to masters- is to obey. Some servants and others in Mandragola, Decameron, and King Lear, seem to agree. But some- such as, the Earl of Kent in King Lear-do not, expressing their loyalty instead of disobeying their masters (i.e. The King), and engaging in trickery.

Examine why the Earl of Kent reject's Siro's point-of-view and decides that the best way to remain loyal- loyal to King Lear, in the first case, to the Duke of Gloucester, in the second- is to disobey and engage in trickery. What do disobedience and trickery achieve? Do they produce better results than the obediant behavior of servants in either Decameron 7.8 or 8.4?

Both of the women servants in the Decameron experienced better results than the characters in King Lear, since most of the latter ended up dead by the end of the play. No one died in the two Boccaccio stories, which were intended to be humorous, although one of the servant women received a very bad beating. Unlike these servants, who were members of the lower classes and quite literally nameless nobodies, the Earl of Kent was an aristocrat who has always served King Lear totally and without reservations. He was definitely not a hired man, but bound be feudal oaths of loyalty to his sovereign. Kent did trick the mad king into believing he is simply a servant named Caius, but with the noblest of intentions and he received no rewards or incentives like the housemaids in Boccaccio's stories. When the king banished him from the palace and sent him into exile, Kent owed no more allegiance to him at all since their bonds were formally broken, yet him stayed with him until the end of the play and died almost immediately after him. Kent is literally loyal to the death, displaying far more virtue and friendship than the king. Edgar, the Earl of Gloucester's son, shows the same level of love and loyalty, even though his father has unjustly exiled him.
Gloucester also realizes too late that his other son Edmund was really his enemy, involved in the plot against Lear and also in removing Edgar as a competitor. Like the Earl of Kent, Edgar is able to return love for hatred and devotion for contempt, and both prove to be far better characters than the men they served so faithfully. Although Kent and all the members of Lear's family end up dead, Edgar receives his reward by becoming king of England.

At the start of King Lear, the Earl of Kent objects to the exile of Cordelia to France, and is immediately exiled as well for daring to question the king's will. From start to finish, however, he is a man of the highest honor and integrity, and speaks out openly against the injustice done to the youngest (and best) of the three daughters. He says in Act 2 that he had always honored and served the king, who he "loved as my father, as my master followed" (Lear, 1998, p. 8). So dog-like is his devotion that he even described himself as "a pawn to wage against thine enemies," which is to say a common foot soldier rather than a nobleman (Lear, p. 9). So is Edgar, the son of Gloucester, even after plots by his brother Edward and a forged letter implicated him unjustly in a conspiracy. After his father is blinded and left to wander the countryside, disguises himself as a homeless madman and continues to serve him, just as Kent takes the name of Caius to serve the wandering and demented Lear. He later cuts down Goneril's servant Oswald, who was sent to murder his father, and later kills Edmund in a duel. Only at the end does Gloucester recognize his son, just as Lear realizes that….....

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