How is Kent similar to Lear in the play, King Lear?

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billdelaney's profile pic

William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Both Kent and Lear are proud, headstrong, outspoken, and quick-tempered. Kent manages to get himself rendered homeless even before Lear or Gloucester. Kent impulsively jumps to Cordelia's defense when Lear disowns and banishes her, making her temporarily homeless too. Lear is the only one who opposes Lear's rash decision to disown his youngest daughter when she fails to flatter him with lies. Lear gets himself put into the stocks for impulsively attacking Oswald and then insulting Regan and her husband the Duke of Cornwall. He tells Cornwall:

Sir, 't is my occupation to be plain:
I have seen better faces in my time
Than stands on any shoulder that I see
Before me at this instant. 

Lear has the same temperament as Kent. In just a few moments in the opening scene of the play he gives his kingdom away, disowns Cordelia, and banishes Kent. Lear is so proud and headstrong that he even banishes himself! He refuses to make any sort of compromise with Goneril or Regan and rushes out into the open country at the worst possible time, with a storm brewing and night coming on. It is because of his rash and impulsive temperament that he has to remain homeless and destitute. He exists on anything he can find to eat, just like Edgar. At one point Lear apparently even seems to show that, rather than go to either of his daughters for food and shelter, he has been eating mice.

Look, look, a mouse! Peace, peace; this piece of toasted cheese will do 't.

We can get an idea of how Lear has been staying alive from what Edgar, pretending to be a lunatic derelict, says in Act 3, Scene 4:

Poor Tom, that eats the swimming frog, the toad, the tadpole, the wall-newt and the water, that in the fury of his heart, when the foul fiend rages, eats cow-dung for sallets, swallows the old rat and the ditch-dog; drinks the green mantle of the standing pool...

We pity both Lear and Kent, yet we admire them for their pride, courage, integrity, independence, and truthfulness. Shakespeare is showing us what happens to men who are too honest. It might be added that Cordelia has apparently inherited her father's headstrong and independent spirit. Fortunately for her, the French king admires her spirit and makes her his queen. 

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mlsldy3's profile pic

mlsldy3 | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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King Lear is one of the most tragic of Shakespeare's characters. Kent is one of his most trusted adviser's at first. There are a couple of similarities between the two men.

King Lear valued loyalty above most things. He wanted loyalty from his people and his family, although he wasn't the greatest of leaders. Kent also valued loyalty and his loyalty to King Lear was the greatest of all. Even after Lear had him banished, Kent's loyalty never once faltered for his king. 

King Lear also valued love. He wanted to know who loved him most. King Lear adored his youngest daughter, Cordelia, but tested her love. She was banished, as well, when her answer didn't suit him. Kent also valued love. His love for King Lear was undying. He would lay down his life for Lear. 

"My life I never held but as a pawn, to wage against thine enemies, not fear to lose it, thy safety being the motive"

This quote, made by Kent about King Lear, shows how much he love the king. He was willing to die for him. After he was banished, his love remained the same. He disguised himself as another person, just so he could be near King Lear and keep him safe. His love and loyalty never faltered, even to the end. 

Kent was a minor character in the play, but he and King Lear were the most alike. Their values were so similar. Kent had no problem telling the king how he felt about things, though. When the king banished Cordelia, Kent jumped to her defense.

"Reverse they doom; and, in thy best consideration, cheque this hideous rashness; answer my life my judgement, thy youngest daughter does not love thee least, nor are those empty-hearted whose low sound reverbs no hallowness"

Here Kent is trying to show his love and loyalty to King Lear, but showing him that Cordelia was the only daughter who loved him. These are just a couple of examples of how Kent and King Lear are similar. 

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