King Lear Essay: Judgment
Essay Question: What is a person’s natural response to judgment? How does that response change when being judged by people who they love? How does this concept relate to King Liear by William Shakespeare and Marks by Linda Pastan?
One of humanity’s most prolific primary cognitive traits has engraved a long history of both extremely prudent and disturbingly rash decisions. Having elite sagacity is a virtually impossible trait to possess; humans have too strong a tendency to make assumptions that reveal their true ignorance to the rest of society. Instinctively when we are faced with judgment, whether it be from a superior, a court of law, a friend, or foe; we will automatically find doubt in their assertions, we are naturally arrogant creatures as demonstrated through the wars and bloodshed within our history. However when we are judged by people who we truly love and appreciate; that is when we humans are most likely to abandon that initial veil of confidence, and start to see error within ourselves, because those who love you are the people who know you the best. Your strengths, weaknesses and everything in between can be observed best by those people, and when we are faced with this kind of judgment, this is when we can become unstable and a cycle of hatred can be bred. This reaction varies depending on their own personality; as exhibited through the ambiguously ominous ending tone in Marks, the psychologically complex impairments of King Lear, and the unending endeavor of inherent malice that has warped humanity’s sense of judgment.
The lone disadvantage that this poem presents us is that we do not get any real background on the other characters (family members), which of course are the people actually judging their mother based on a grading system similar to that of a school. However, it isn’t the actual judging that the family members do that create this depressed characterization tone at the end of the poem, it’s the ambivalent reaction of the mother, towards their judgment.
“My daughter believes in Pass/Fail and tells me I Pass. Wait ‘til they learn I’m dropping out” (Pastan, 9-12).
As stated before the final words of the poem are not necessarily definitive in the overall response but instead they portray somewhat of a tenebrous nature. The meaning of the phrase dropping out is the issue most concerning and if it has any true connection to becoming unstable when judged by loved ones. While there may be multiple sane reactions in dealing with her family members condescending, ignorant, and crude words, this line’s grave manner indicates that the mother is “dropping out” of life whether that be in the form of insanity or even possibly the mortal act of weakness in humanity known as suicide.
The most fluent irony in King Lear is the evident fact that Lear himself, before he was psychologically destroyed by Goneril and Regan, was the sole person judging everyone in his court, as Kings historically have done. Then by the end of the play, he is the person that has been the most battered by judgment, his mental frailty led to his immanent downfall. Shakespeare definitely set this up accordingly by allocating his characters into different pro-tagonism versus antagonism sects. However, Lear’s reaction to judgment from people who he thought had loved him was undoubtedly unique and in many ways rejected a Freudian lens, possibly because Lear had cast off all the people who truly loved him from the beginning (Cordelia and Kent). Lear’s words to Cordelia demonstrate this insanity:
“No, no, no, no. Come, let’s away to prison. We two alone will sing like birds I’ th’ cage. When thou dost ask me blessing, I’ll kneel down and ask of thee forgiveness” (Shakespeare 5.3.9).
Lear Is describing his own distorted paradise in which Cordelia and himself reside like birds in a bird cage together alone where nobody else can harm or even make contact with them. He also speaks of forgiveness, which is not something a King would traditionally ask for, and in many ways when people are put in a position with that much wielded power, they often absorb a sense of arrogance that ascends themselves to a deity like position in their mind. Ironically showing how even those at the top of their world can fall victim to the judgment dealt by those who they love.
The two most prominent traits that breed impure judgment (false assumptions) are arrogance and ignorance. The feeling of putting oneself above others on any type of scale gives people an ecstatic and blind view on life. However, egalitarianism is not necessarily a fool proof alternative, which is why balancing both ends of the spectrum has been such an essential factor in keeping stability within the human race. While equality under the law maybe be evident in one country there are also many people within that country who have a willful sense of prejudice against people from another country, the judgment that they deal to those people creates turbulence amongst the factions eventually causing violence and possibly war and death. In the case of Lear, he demanded words of adoration and affection from his daughters, probably because he felt a void in his own humanity possibly an extension related to a loss, his queen? Either way, this is the reason his response to judgment by those who deceived him, was such an anomaly, he skipped the classic Freudian defensive tactics that are so commonly seen and instead immersed himself in veil of insanity shortly after venting his initial hatred in the storm.
These are the most prolific examples of the thesis; you can even analyze both the Mother from Marks and Lear’s reactions through a more scientific basis. The fear of being judged is the controlled variable while the reaction towards that judgment is the ever changing independent variable; spanning different horizons for every person based upon their own sense of sagacity and how magnanimous they really are in life. No matter the case, the cycle of malignance that Is created through this cycle will remain prevalent throughout humanity’s time on earth, there can be no true equality when human immoral judgment remains a parasitic insect buried deep within our hard wiring.