Fate in “ King Lear” Essay Sample
In the play King Lear fate decides where each person will go, how they live and how they die. Each character in the play believes in god or a higher power that is responsible for the good and unfortunate events in their lives. Fate places situations on each of them and it is up to the characters to decide how they will play out the situation. Each character blames the gods for their ill fortunes and complicated lives. When one lives under the notion that there is a divine power guiding them through their life they feel more confidante knowing there is someone watching out for them. There is one major plot in this play with an almost as important sub plot. The major plot is King Lear and his daughters. An old man loosing his mind and his two daughters are trying to control him as if he were a child instead of a king. The second plot involves Edgar the legitimate son of the Earl of Gloucester and Edmund the illegitimate son.
Edmund is a vile man full of hatred and greed for power. Edmund betrays his brother and father in order to accumulate power. It is fate that brings the characters of this play to commit the acts and make the decisions that decide their destiny. The play starts off as a slightly insane King Lear divides his land up between his daughters. His two eldest daughters tell him lies to flatter him and the youngest daughter tells him truth which he is blind to see. The king did not choose to grow old, the king did not choose for his life to slowly come to an end and the king did not and could not choose to be insane that is something only fate and bring.
In the play, King Lear often talks to or about the gods. He believes that the gods are controlling his fate and as the play progresses and the situation worsens we see Lear and other characters protesting the gods as if they were out to get them. Lear first speaks of the gods early on in the play when he says “ For by the sacred radiance of the sun the mysteries of Hecate and the night, by all the operation of the orbs from whom we do exist and cease to be.”( Act 1, Scene 1, Line 112 – 115) In this quote King Lear asks the gods why his youngest daughter Cordelia does not love him as much as his eldest daughters. Lear is blind to see the truth in his daughter Cordelia. Hecate is the goddess of witchcraft and the underworld so it is ironic that he refers to Cordelia as a goddess of the underworld when she it the only daughter that truly loves him. King Lear then sends his daughter away and she weds the king of France. The King then starts to live with his daughter Goneril and she treats him like a child. As the play continues Lear makes one irrational decision after another and his health both mental and physical starts to deteriorate. At the end of the play King Lear is powerless and Edmund has just summoned a guard to take Lear and Cordelia away to prison. Then King Lear says
“ No, no, no, no! Come, let’s away to prison: We two alone will sing like birds i’ the cage: when thou dost ask me blessing, I’ll kneel down, and ask of thee forgiveness: so we’ll live, And pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh At glided butterflies, and hear poor rogues talk of court news; and we’ll talk with them too, who loses and who wins; who’s in, who’s out; and take upon’s the mystery of things, as if we were God’s spies: and we’ll wear out, in a wall’d prison, packs and sects of great ones, that ebb and flow by the moon.” ( Act 5 Scene 3 Line 9 – 20 )
This quote displays that Lear is merely a tool of the gods. Lear says that they will talk like they understand the worlds mysteries like they were connected to god instead of being a mere prisoner in his own kingdom. It seems as though Lear is giving up and submitting to the fate that the gods have dealt him. The ebb and flow means a stage of decline or decay, moving from bad to worse. Lear not only accepts his fate but he accepts the face that he will slowly die in the prison, he feels totally helpless to the will of the gods and the fate he was dealt.
Edmund is the illegitimate son of Gloucester and he started a path of betrayal that included Edgar, his brother and his father. Edmund was angry because he was an illegitimate son which was not his decision at all, it was fate’s. It seems as though Edmund was evil from the beginning of his life. It only seemed fitting that a son born out of wedlock would turn out to be evil. Edmund’s rival Edgar is the legitimate son and a symbol of good in the battle between good vs. evil. It seems like fate brings these two brothers to loathe each other. Edmund does not believe in fate, or the gods which makes him even more a symbol of evil. We see this when he says
“ This is the excellent foppery of the world, that, when we are sick in fortune, often the surfeit of our own behavior, we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and the stars….. An admirable evasion of master man, to lay his goatish disposition to the charge of a star”
In this quote Edmund mocks anyone who blames his or her misfortunes on god and fate. Edgar like Lear believes that the Gods are playing with him. At the end of the play Edgar confronts Edmund and they battle. Before Edgar slays Edmund he tells him that he is a traitor to his brother, his father and the gods when he says ” Despite thy victor sword and fire-new fortune, thy valour and thy art a traitor, false to thy gods, thy brother, and thy father.” ( Act 5 Scene 3 Line151 -154) This is important because Edgar tells his brother that even though he has new power and fortune he has still betrayed the gods and that he must be punished. Edgar then goes on to slay Edmund and Edmund’s foreseeable fate is sealed.
In the play King Lear fate plays a big role in all of the lives of the characters. Fate starts off the situations in both plots. Fate makes Lear a mad man which causes him to lose sight of what is real and what is fake in the world. His madness almost leads to the destruction of England if it had not been for Edgar. Edgar killed the tyrant responsible for the deceit and betrayal that leads the kingdom into chaos. It was fate that made Edmund the evil illegitimate son and Edgar the good legitimate son. And it was fate that brought them together in the end to fight the battle of good vs. evil. Each character contributed the events in their lives to the gods and the fate that was decided for them.