The Wages of Sin
King Lear, a play by Shakespeare, is a detailed look at the consequences of one man s decisions, which greatly alter his life and the lives around him. Lear, the King of England, sinfully surrenders his kingdom to his daughters in reward for demonstrating their love for him, beginning a downward spiral of tragic events all leading back to that one moment. At one point in the play, Lear falsely states that he is, a man more sinned against than sinning (III.ii.62-63), for Lear has sinned a great deal and does deserve all that has come to him.
As the play opens, one can almost immediately see that Lear begins to make mistakes that will eventually result in his downfall. The very first words spoken by Lear are:
Give me the map there. Know that we have divided
In three our kingdom, and tis our fast intent
Conferring them on younger strengths, while we
Unburdened crawl toward death
This gives the first indication of Lear s intent to resign from his throne. He goes on further to offer his kingdom, in three pieces, to his daughters as a form of his test of love.
Great rivals in our youngest daughter s love,
Long in our court have made their amorous sojourn
Since now we will divest us both of rule,
Interest of territory, cares of state
Which of you shall we say doth love us most,
That we our largest bounty may extend
Where nature doth with merit challenge.
This is the first and most significant of Lear s sins in the play. By resigning from throne and giving it to his daughters Lear fuels his ego. In Lear s following actions, he banishes those around him who genuinely care and love him, for he can not see beyond the masks that the evil wear. He banishes his youngest and most loved daughter, Cordelia, for her honesty in stating that she loves her father too much for words to express and vows to remain silent because of this. He banishes Kent, his loyal servant, for trying to reason with Lear about this sinful action. As a result, Lear has surrounded himself among people who only wish to use him, leaving him vulnerable for attack.
Following his sins, Lear is abandoned and estranged from his kingdom, which he so carelessly surrendered, causing him to loose his sanity. Once lost behind a hundred knights, Lear is open and frightened being pushed out from behind his knights. This is represented with him being out on the lawns of his own castle. Lear s sudden insanity, rage, and anger are seen through the thunderous storm that he is locked out in. All of this contributes to the suffering of Lear due to the body of sins that he has committed.
The pinnacle of his hell is experienced is experienced in order to repay his sins at the end of the play when Cordelia is killed. He says this himself, just before he dies from grief of his daughter s death.
Had I your tongues and eyes, I d use them so
That heaven s vault should crack. She s gone
I know when one is dead and when one lives.
She s dead as earth. Lend me a looking glass.
If that her breath will mist or stain the stone,
Why, then she lives.
All the pain that Lear suffered can be traced back to that single moment of his greatest error in sin of giving his kingdom to the two daughters whom only said they loved him, but truly did not. This one sin, along with the banishment of Kent and Cordelia, have proven to have massive repercussions upon Lear and the lives of those around him, ending in virtually everyone s death, making Lear s statement, I am a man more sinned against than sinning inaccurate.