Compare and Contrast Essay on Characters in the Play "King Lear"

Paper Type:  Literature review
Pages:  4
Wordcount:  988 Words
Date:  2022-08-15


Shakespeare's play, "King Lear" revolves around the story's protagonist, Lear, and his daughters. As Lear ages, he wishes to divide his realm among his children. The basis for the division of the kingdom is a profession of love from his three daughters. The daughter who shall profess her love and impress the most shall receive the most substantial portion. The king's first two daughters, Goneril and Regan tables false declarations (Mabillard). Cordelia, the king's favorite, does not impress. Unlike her elder sisters' flattery, she utters a simple, yet sincere profession of love. However, the king is unimpressed and denies her the inheritance, as Goneril and Regan handsomely receive the property. This marks the start of the King Lear's troubles. This paper reveals how Cordelia is different from her two evil sisters, Goneril and Regan, as portrayed in the play "King Lear."

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The author's portrayal of the difference in the character of the three children points to the differences in motivates of the different members of the society. The knowledge of the rewards that await them brings out their actual traits. Goneril, the eldest, is the first to deliver her deceitful declaration of love for his father. She goes on to state that she loves him more than words can bear. Her profession continues with a claim that his father is more valuable than anything rich or rare in the world (Hylton). The praises achieve the desired motive as the king is pleased with her words. This makes her receive a considerable share of the kingdom. Later on, the author reveals that her declaration was insincere. The inheritance gives her massive power, to the extent of disrespecting her father. She views him as an old man and dislikes hosting him.

Regan, the second daughter, proves to be cunning and insincere as Goneril. When her turn to declare her love comes, she embraces the role and delivers a beautiful declaration that pleases her father. She mentions that no other joy is comparable to how happy she is under the most precious love of her father (Hylton). Her unusual, yet hypocritical words enthrall the King. Regan receives her portion of the kingdom. After becoming an influential member of the society, Regan reveals her real character. She locks up her father's friend, who had come to inform her of Lear's impending arrival (Mabillard). She sides with her sister to frustrate the old king. The author uses her to reveal how wealth changes family relations.

Shakespeare's portrayal of Cordelia's sisters is an actual representation of the wicked and corrupt members of the society. On the other hand, Cordelia is a representation of the good people in the society (Kennedy 60). The two sisters use all means necessary to achieve their motive to acquire wealth. They do not exercise any restraint in lying to their father. The promise of vast lands, properties, and authority has a better appeal to them. After acquiring the property, their father ceases to be valuable to them. Regan asks her father to make amends with Goneril for offending her. King Lear kneels and makes a passionate plea to be spared the shame and torture that her daughters are subjecting him through (Hylton). He confesses that he is old and all he needs is food and a place to sleep.

Their greed explains the undesirable behavior of the two sisters, who are in search of dominance and material possessions. They are a representation of self-centered, ambitious people that lack moral values. In any society, some people place much value in economic prosperity and affluence over family and love. Such individuals are willing to do even the most grievous deeds to retain their position in the community. For instance, Gloucester forewarns that he overheard of a plot to murder Lear. Perceived as a villain, the two sisters demand that Gloucester face death by hanging. Goneril asks for his eyes to be plucked out (Hylton). These actions show their ruthless nature when it comes to preserving their interests. They have no compassion for the weak in the society.

Having defeated their sister and her French army, Goneril and Regan do not show any mercy towards her. Instead of imprisoning her, they order for her death (Mabillard). Lear is frustrated and saddened by this turn of events. He undergoes immense pain due to the loss of his favorite daughter. The play's end portrays a counter-productive arrogance. Despite being a glorified and wealth leader, Lear ends up as a sad, rejected man. The author captures the essence of being true to self and others. It also reveals the unfair complexes of life. For instance, it is a general assumption that good often prevails over the bad (Kennedy 61). However, Shakespeare's work tells a harsh truth. The tragic ending of the play indicates how the bad elements thrive in society.


In conclusion, the play captures essential aspects of human nature as well as the society. Despite the difference in time and setting of the play, it is an accurate account of present-day society. The two sisters' desire for power is symbolic to the current social order. They represent the good and evil people in the society. The author portrays Goneril and Regan as two evil sisters, whose motive is to inherit their father's property. Cordelia, on the other hand, is presented as a good person whose is concerned about his father well-being. Betrayals in various social environments have become a common occurrence. Elements that perpetuate the good in people lack a place in the society. Hence, Cordelia's sincerity led to the loss of her inheritance while her sisters gained wealth and power.

Works Cited

Mabillard, Amanda. "The Tragedy of King Lear: Plot Summary." Shakespeare Online. Accessed on 25 Sept. 2018

Kennedy, Joy. "Shakespeare's King Lear." The Explicator, vol. 60, no. 2, 2002, pp. 60-62.

Hylton, Jeremy. "King Lear: Entire Play." Accessed on 25 Sept. 2018.

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Compare and Contrast Essay on Characters in the Play "King Lear". (2022, Aug 15). Retrieved from

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