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Coming of Wisdom with Age as Illustrated by King Lear

Wisdom Does Not Come With Age

Although it is never too late to learn, those lessons learned in old age are often the most difficult and the most costly. Following Lear's dispute with Goneril, the Fool tell him, "Thou shoulds't not have been old till thou hads't/ Been wise” [I, v, 43-44]. In William Shakespeare's tragedy King Lear, Lear illustrates that wisdom does not necessarily come with age. The mistakes that Lear make leave him vulnerable to disappointment and suffering at a time in his life where he should be enjoying peace and contentment. This is shown through his rash decisions and his hints of madness throughout the play. Although Lear does achieve wisdom before he dies, he pays a dear price for living his life unwisely.

Right in the beginning of King Lear, Lear is marred by his inability to predict the consequences of his actions. Lear asks his three daughters to compete for his kingdom by expressing their undying love for the King. Both Goneril and Regan have no problem articulating their love for their father, however when it is Cordelia's turn she refuses to compete because she feels she cannot express the way she feels through words. This refusal enrages Lear and hurts his pride causing him to disown Cordelia foolishly:

Have no such daughter, nor shall ever see

That face of hers again. Therefore begone

Without our grace, our love, our benison. [I, i, 304-307]

Ironically he later discovers that Cordelia was the only daughter that really loved him unconditionally.

Lear cannot see into other people's characters and identify them for who they truly are. When Kent reprimands Lear for his rash decision in disowning Cordelia, "Be Kent unmannerly/ When Lear is mad. What wouldst thou do, old man?” [I, i, 162-163] Lear responds to Kent's opposition by banishing him from his kingdom. Later, Lear displays such superficial behavior that he does not even notice the<...

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