The Role Of Loyalty In William Shakespeare’s King Lear

Loyalty is a factor that determines the way one’s life may go. Depending on who the individual is loyal to, it can lead them down a dangerous path or one that is great, but not without consequence. In William Shakespeare’s King Lear loyalty plays a critical role in both Kent and Oswald whose loyalty is steadfast, but service opposite sides, one good one evil. Loss, suffering and death are all inevitable in one’s loyalty.

Kent is a loyal servant that serves the good side, Lear. He advises Lear to rethink his decision of giving Goneril and Regan power after the love test, Lear does not see this as Kent helping him, but sees this as if he is just disagreeing with him. For this reason Lear exiles Kent and leaves him with nothing. Kent loses his position as legal aid to Lear, but even after all of this Kent is still loyal to Lear. Kent loses his identity by serving someone else all of the time. Kent comes back disguised as Caius so he can still serve Lear “If but as well I other accents borrow that can my speech defuse, my good intent May carry through itself to that full issue For which I razed my likeness. Now, banished Kent, If thou canst serve where thou dost stand condemned, So may it come thy master, whom thou lov'st, Shall find thee full of labors”. It just goes to show that Kent being loyal is good, but he loses himself in the process. However Oswald loses his humanity when he decides to serve the evil side Goneril, but Oswald also gains from Lears loses. Oswald, similarly to Kent, goes to great lengths to serve who he is loyal to he takes any orders from Goneril no matter how immoral they are. Oswald wants Lear to lose power so that Goneril can move up in power which also means that Oswald would go up in power. Oswald carries out Goneril’s orders. She tells Oswald and his fellows to treat Lear’s knights with cold looks and to put on “weary negligence. ” Oswald accepts orders from Goneril to do an immoral act and kill Gloucester. Oswald does it without question this proves how truly loyal Oswald is to Goneril. Both Kent and Oswald deal with loss, but they also deal with suffering.

Kent’s undying will to be loyal gets him place in the stocks for a grueling twenty-four hours. Kent assaulted Oswald when he was disrespecting Lear. For this reason Kent is put in to the stocks by Regan and Cornwall where he is alone and isolated. Kent is willing to give up his freedom to stay loyal to Lear “Call not your stocks for me. I serve the king, On whose employment I was sent to you. You shall do small respect, show too bold malice Against the grace and person of my master, Stocking his messenger. ” This proves Kent’s loyalty and how he will go through any amount of suffering if it in the name of Lear. Oswald brings up the fact that Gloucester has helped Lear escape to Dover. Gloucester is found and brought to Regan and Cornwall. They treat him cruelly, tying him up insulting him, and pulling his white beard. Cornwall says to himself that he cannot kill Gloucester with without holding a formal trial, but he can still inflict a lot of pain to Gloucester. Gloucester is going through all of this suffering at the hands of Oswald.

Kent suffers a tragic death when he tries to tell Lear who he really is in his final moments. This is the exchange between Kent and Lear in Lear's final moments “This is a dull sight…. He knows not what he says, and vain it is that we present us to him. ” Lear finally realizes who Caius turley was, but Kent tells Lear this too late and the man who Kent has been Loyal to for so long tragically dies in his arms. However, Oswald is going to deliver the letter that Goneril ordered to give to Edmund and on his way there Edgar kills him and Oswald dies wishing to fulfill Goneril's duties. This proves that Oswalds loyalty to Goneril was the main reason for his tragic death.

Loyalty is a big factor that determines the way one’s life may go depending on who one is loyal to it can lead them down a dangerous path or one that is great, but not without a cost. In the end one character served a good side and the other served an evil side, but regardless of how far and different these two worlds are both characters suffered loss, suffering, and a tragic death at the hands of loyalty.

10 October 2020
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