In King Lear, what is the turning point in the King's life?
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In the opening scene of the play, King Lear bestows his entire kingdom upon his two daughters and their husbands, to whom he explains his purpose:
I do invest you jointly with my power,
Pre-eminence, and all the large effects
That troop with majesty. Ourself, by monthly course,
With reservation of an hundred knights,
By you to be sustain'd, shall our abode
Make with you by due turns. Only we still retain
The name, and all the additions to a king;
The sway, revenue, execution of the rest,
Beloved sons, be yours: which to confirm,
This coronet part betwixt you.
In Act 1, Scene 3, Goneril tells her steward Oswald she is sick and tired of having her father and his hundred knights as guests. This is the turning point in the King's life. His daughter is going to make him feel so unwelcome that he will leave. He is in his second childhood and acting like a spoiled little boy now that he feels he is free of former responsibilities.
When he returns from hunting,
I will not speak with him; say I am sick:
If you come slack of former services,
You shall do well; the fault of it I'll answer.
At that point the stage directions call for Horns, within.
We can imagine Goneril's body language when she hears the hunting horns announcing the return of her father on horseback with his hundred knights all covered with mud, carrying bloody trophies, followed by a pack of hounds. She tells Oswald:
Now, by my life,
Old fools are babes again, and must be used
With checks as flatteries, when they are seen abused.
Goneril wants to provoke a quarrel and succeeds. Lear ends by shouting:
Darkness and devils!
Saddle my horses; call my train together.
Degenerate bastard! I'll not trouble thee:
Yet have I a daughter left.
Lear has disowned Cordelia. Now he is virtually disowning Goneril. He will soon find out that his daughter Regan has no more love for him than Goneril. The turning point is already past when Lear encounters Regan and her husband the Duke of Cornwell in Act 2, Scene 4 at the Duke of Gloucester's castle, where they have retreated in order to be absent from home when Lear arrives. Both sisters are resolved to divest Lear of his remaining power by refusing to provide for any of his knights.
Goneril arrives on the scene while Lear is receiving a cold reception from Regan and Cornwall. Together the sisters provoke their old father to such an extent that he rides off in a high rage. A storm is brewing and Lear will be without shelter.
The loyal Gloucester tells Regan's equally cruel husband Cornwall:
Alack, the night comes on, and the bleak winds
Do sorely ruffle; for many miles about
There's scarce a bush.
Regan warns Gloucester to lock his doors:
He is attended with a desperate train;
And what they may incense him to, being apt
To have his ear abused, wisdom bids fear.
And her husband orders Gloucester:
Shut up your doors, my lord; 't is a wild night:
My Regan counsels well: come out o' the storm.
From that point on Lear is like a homeless man. His disillusionment with his daughters and his realization of his own folly drive him insane. Most of his dialogue throughout the rest of the play consists of wild ravings. Only when he is reunited with his daughter Cordelia does he recovers some sanity. Shakespeare creates one of his most beautiful metaphors when father and daughter are reunited and Lear says:
You do me wrong to take me out o' the grave:
Thou art a soul in bliss; but I am bound
Upon a wheel of fire, that mine own tears
Do scald like molten lead.
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