King Lear - Disruption of Order in King Lear and the Causes


Shakespeare's King Lear is a play which shows the consequences of one man's decisions. The audience follows the main character, Lear, as he makes decisions that disrupt order in his Kingdom. When Lear surrenders all his power and land to his daughters as a reward for their demonstration of love towards him, the breakdown on order in evident. Lear's first mistake is to divide his Kingdom into three parts. A Kingdom is run best under one ruler as only one decision is made without contradiction. Another indication that order is disrupted is the separation of Lear's family. Lear's inability to control his anger causes him to banish his youngest daughter, Cordelia, and loyal servant, Kent. This foolish act causes Lear to become vulnerable to his other two daughters as they conspire against him. Lastly, the transfer of power from Lear to his eldest and middle daughter, Goneril and Regan, reveals disorder as a result of the division of the Kingdom. A Kingdom without order is a Kingdom in chaos. When order is disrupted in King Lear, the audience witnesses chaotic events that Lear endures, eventually learning who truly loves him.

At the start of the play, Lear decides to divide his Kingdom into three.

Give me the map there. Know we have divided
In three our Kingdom and ?tis our fast intent to
Shake all cares and business from our age.
(I,i,37-39)

This is the first indication that order is disrupted. Dividing up a Kingdom politically has many disadvantages that Lear does not realize. A Kingdom divided mens there will be more than one ruler and a difference of opinion will occur. There will always be disagreements and arguments which may end in haste, creating tension between the rulers. Also, the pieces of land will eventually have to be divided again as generations pass, which allows for easy attacks. Although Lear may feel he had a good reason to divide his land, there really is no rational reason for his action. He only divided his land so he could be showered with loving words from his daughters. His desire to fuel his ego by abdicating his throne and using his property as a reward eventually causes him to lose everything, including his family.

Dividing the Kingdom is not the only indication that order is disrupted. The separation of Lear's family also provide evidence that disorder is inevitable. The banishment of Cordelia and Kent is a harsh act carried out by Lear while blinded by anger. By banishing the only daughter who truly loves him, and a loyal servant who refuses to stand around and do nothing while Lear makes a big mistake, Lear surrounds himself with people who only loved him for his money and power. As Lear's family breaks apart, one must wonder if Lear is capable of ruling a country when he cannot even keep his family together. Again, Lear's desire to fuel his ego is the cause of the separation of his family. When Cordelia refuses to speak lovingly, "Unhappy that I am. I cannot heave My heart into my mouth." (I,i,92-94), Lear becomes angered and banishes her. As an act of loyalty, Kent stands up for Cordelia and questions Lear's decision, because he feels that Lear is making a big mistake. For that reason, Lear also banishes Kent and as a result, the people who truly love him are kicked out of his life, leaving him vulnerable to Goneril and Regan.

As the play proceeds, Regan and Goneril rise in status in the Kingdom, while Lear's presence and authority as King becomes insignificant. This is an indication that order is disrupted, because traditionally the oldest person in the family is in control. Only when the King dies, do his children take over his reign. Lear's insignificance is shown in a conversation with Oswald, a servant to Goneril.

Lear: Who am I, sir?
Oswald: My Lady?s father.
Lear: ?My Lady?s father?! My lord?s knave!
(I, iv, 74-76)

Lear is greatly insulted by that comment as he is the King of England, not just his daughter's father. Oswald's comment suggests that Gonerial has a higher rank than Lear. Lear's insignificance is a result of his own actions. When he banished Cordelia and Kent, he allowed himself to be vulnerable to Goneril and Regan's conspiracy, which was indicated in their conversation.