The Significance Of The Gods In King Lear

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King Lear by the time of his death at the play’s finale is an entirely different character from who he was at the play’s beginning. Initially considering himself of some significance to the the gods, it becomes clear to him by the end of the play that even kings are no more than mortal men. It is a result of his daughter Cordelia’s death, Lear eventually comes to realize what Glo’ster expresses so eloquently, and which acts as the premise of the tragic play, that “as flies to wanton boys are we to the gods,” (4.1.36). It is this message that Shakespeare intends the audience to walk away with. In the play’s opening act, Lear swears by the gods with every order he gives. Kent, who throughout the play represents a pious man of good morals, warns Lear, “Thou swear’st thy gods in vain” (1.1.159), and yet Lear takes no heed. Indeed, when he then proceeds to banish Kent, he swears yet again by Jupiter. Lear’s allusions to the gods, though they are frequent, are insincere. When Lear speaks of the the gods it is to magnify the intensity of his own commands. He thus uses the gods to a selfish purpose. We see this particularly in contrast to Kent who …show more content…
In the face of the storm, no longer does he retain any position or title. He is but a man, subject to the laws of nature as much as any man. This point marks the very pinnacle of the transformation of Lear’s understanding of and relationship to the gods. Addressing the storm he states, “Here I stand your slave, a poor infirm, weak and despised old man” (3.2.19). In addressing the storm he is essentially addressing divinity, that which is larger than himself. He is explicitly acknowledging here, for the first time, that his position is below that of the gods. By exposing his mortal body to the wrath of the storm. He is placing himself at the storm’s mercy, at the mercy of the

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