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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

King Lear essentially dies of a broken heart.  In the final scene of the drama, King Lear is peering over his daughter's dead body.  He brings it in and stares at Cordelia's face.  He wishes some aspect of life to be brought back to it.  There is a vast level of guilt that Lear demonstrates in this scene.  He wishes to bring back life to "nothing," the essence of Cordelia's statement to him in the first scene.  For Lear, a massive transformation in his own character and his realization has been undertaken throughout the drama.  His words that indicate he "might have saved her" is reflective of this.  In a setting in which so much has been twisted and deformed, something which Lear himself has been an active agent in perpetrating, Shakespeare devises it so that Lear dies of what amounts to be a broken heart.  It is this element that Lear lacked in the opening of the drama and its presence is what causes his death.  It is in this where death is seen as a step towards restoration.  Shakespeare uses Lear's death and his own understanding about his own folly as a reason why there is some level of hope in restoration in following Lear's death.  His death through a broken heart and a recognition of his own failures is where there can be hope for a future that avoids the mistakes that he, himself, has made.  Being a "foolish old man" is where his death through the breaking of his own heart becomes a fitting conclusion to the narrative.