In life comes across many difficult and tangled situations. In every one of these, external and/or internal forces affect the outcome of the situation, as well as the state of mind of the characters involved. External factors are influences that cannot be controlled by a character. On the other hand, internal factors are those that come from within a character. In the playwright King Lear, Shakespeare designs the character King Lear to demonstrate how madness results from his ignorance, his lack of judgment and faulty decisions, and the corruption that occurs around him as well as within himself, and how difficult it is for him to pull himself together.
In the playwright, King Lear struggles with relinquishing control of his kingdom to his heirs as well as resisting giving up his role as a parent who commands and dictates the lives of his children. At the beginning of the play we see Lear hastily dividing his kingdom between his three daughters instead of patiently waiting for the laws of inheritance to take place. This division is dependent on the expression of love from his daughters, “Sir, I love you more than words can wield the matter; Dearer than eye-sight, space, and liberty; Beyond what can be valued, rich or rare;…”, and “Sir, I am made.
Of the self-same metal that my sister is, And prize me at her worth. In my true heart I find she names my very deed of love…”. Accepting Goneril and Regan’s superficial flattery simply because they have played along is an error of judgment. King Lear is guided by control instead of reason. He makes the wrong decision in overlooking Cordelia’s honesty “Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave/ My heart into my mouth: I love your majesty/ According to my bond; nor more nor less” which later will cost him dearly.
Shakespeare has vividly dramatized the tragic consequences of dividing the kingdom as opposed to unifying it. A kingdom without order is a kingdom in chaos. Not only does this mistake reflect upon him as a King, but it results in a loss of power. Lear is renouncing his throne simply to fuel his ego. In doing so, he transfers all of his power to corrupted souls, that of Goneril and Regan’s which will do no good with this new gain of power, as predicted by Cordelia “Time shall unfold what plaited cunning hides:/ Who cover faults, at last shame them derides./ Well may you prosper!” This in turn ratifies Lear’s world.
As Lear is more and more disgusted, his world begins to crumble. His royal garments are stripped away and replaced by simple wrappings of earth-toned burlap. As his royal clothing falls away, he becomes more vulnerable and self-aware. Through enduring nakedness in the harsh natural elements of nature, unprotected by his kingly garb and public status, Lear is exposed to his true self. The ‘madman’ Lear emerges. Like the Fool, Lear’s ‘mad’ words offer an honest, clear, heartfelt insight and respect for humanity.
The double paradox of reason in madness, and madness in reason, underscores the entire play. When Lear appears sane, he cannot distinguish between Cordelia and her wicked sisters. He must acquire wisdom by going mad. It is only through being stripped of the trappings of royalty, when Lear appears to be nothing more than a ‘madman’ in the raw elements of nature that he learns about humanity.
But at this point it’s difficult for King Lear to redeem himself and regain sanity. As he realizes the consequences of his internal faults and the external factors which affected his sanity so dearly, he attempts to take a step towards pulling himself together. But as all is lost, this makes it difficult, and Lear leaves with his final words: “And my poor fool is hang’d! No, no, no life!/ Why should a dog, a horse, a rat, have life,/ And thou no breath at all? Thou’lt come no more,/ Never, never, never, never, never!/ Pray you, undo this button: thank you, sir./ Do you see this? Look on her, look, her lips,/ Look there, look there!” Chaos is ones mind created from personality defects and corruption in a given society makes the reach to re-order ones self near impossible when all is lost.