Notes on King Lear Themes

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King Lear Topic Tracking: Age

Act 1, Scene 1

Age 1: Though Lear is older and supposedly wiser than his daughters, the girls dupe him into thinking they adore him relentlessly. The younger ones ends up being smarter in this case, mainly due to Lear's fading mental faculties. The only honest daughter, Cordelia, is thrown out due to her plain and honest love of her father. (lines 34-120)

Age 2: The sisters recognize here that Lear is making rash decisions because of his old age. They decide they need to be there for him to support him during this time. Again, the younger characters are the stronger ones. (lines 284-306)

Act 1, Scene 2

Age 3: Edmund wonders why his brother deserves everything good, just because he was the accident of a rightful birth. Edmund could have been rightful had timing been different, he thinks to himself. (lines 1-22)

Age 4: Edmund dupes his father into believing Edgar is a villain. As in the case with Lear, Gloucester is more easily duped in his old age. (lines 23-114)

Act 1, Scene 3

Age 5: The daughters vow to be stronger than their father and manipulate him if necessary, because they don't like the forceful ways in which he and his entourage are behaving as of late.

Act 1, Scene 4

Age 6: The king beckons Goneril and grows angry when a knight approaches him and says Goneril is unable to report at the moment; she is not feeling well. The king grows angry that his daughter disobeys him. Yet there is really little he can do, while also maintaining his sanity. (lines 41-89)

Age 7: Goneril enters to tell Lear his knights have been overly abusive. Lear mocks her and acts like the Fool. Yet Goneril has had enough and has the nerve to tell her father that he is old enough to be wiser than that. (lines 191-280)

Act 2, Scene 1

Age 8: Edmund manages to dupe Gloucester into believing Edgar is a villain. The father now, due to his gullibility, makes his illegitimate son the new heir to the kingdom. (lines 32-85)

Act 2, Scene 4

Age 9: Lear finds himself in a position of kissing up to his daughters. Regan convinces him he has been too rash in abandoning Goneril, telling him that he would sentence her (Regan) in the same exact way if in one of his moods. (lines 115-304)

Age 10: Regan and Goneril do not think their father needs such an enormous entourage. They don't think he needs any attendants at all. The king is in a position of having to defend himself to his young daughters, and says he is a poor old man as full of grief as of age.

Act 3, Scene 4

Age 11: This is the first time Lear feels his own limitations and recognizes his inappropriate behavior. He seems approachable, suddenly, in his old age. Also, this is the first time his age might be associated with his wisdom. (lines 28-36)

Age 12: Lear is becoming further detached from his throne when Gloucester arrives in the woods. Gloucester's inability to see the truth--by failing to recognize his own son Edgar dressed in beggar's garb--shows just how blind Gloucester has become to the truth about his sons. (lines 108-175)

Act 3, Scene 6

Age 13: Lear holds a mock trial to declare Goneril and Regan guilty of kicking him around in his old age. He reverts to self-pity, once again showing an approachable side. (lines 1-83)

Act 4, Scene 1

Age 14: Humble Edgar sees his father for the first time in a while, and discovers his father's compromised condition (blindness). He realizes that his own life is indeed not the "worst." There is always something lower. Hardships come with age; it is up to him to help his father. (lines 1-79)

Act 4, Scene 6

Age 15: Lear has finally reached a state of clarity. He begins to exhibit a maturity and wisdom so far absent from what we've seen of the king. (lines 80-199)

Act 4, Scene 7

Age 16: Cordelia decides to devote herself to taking care of her father. From this point on, Lear realizes what a fool he has been to the daughter he has always loved the most. He lets her now take care of him. (lines 44-97)

Act 5, Scene 3

Age 17: Lear is happily carried off to prison with Cordelia by his side. The possibility of death does not faze him, even though he is old and weak. (lines 1-25)

Age 18: The old, weak Lear dies, desperate only for his beloved daughter Cordelia to be alive. (lines 238-327)

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