King Lear Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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In King Lear, how is Kent's need to disguise himself part of a theme of disguise and deception in the play?

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It's telling that Kent has to disguise himself as a servant to get near to Lear. We've already seen that Lear prefers appearance to reality. When he foolishly divided his kingdom among his daughters he thought that he could still maintain the appearance of being king. And in demanding a public declaration of love from each of them he made it all too easy for Regan and Goneril to give the appearance of loving their father but without actually doing so.

A king without a kingdom, Lear has only the guise of kingship, so those like Kent who choose to stay within his orbit must enter the old man's deranged fantasy world and put on their own disguises. Just as Lear is no longer a real king, Kent is not a real servant. It's an indication of the topsy-turvy world...

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