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King Lear by William Shakespeare is a tragic tale of filial conflict personal transformation and loss The story revolves around the King who foolishly alienates his only truly devoted daughter and realizes too late the true nature of his other two daughters A major subplot involves the illegitimate son of Gloucester Edmund who plans to discredit his brother Edgar and betray his father With these and other major characters in the play Shakespeare clearly asserts that human nature is either entirely good or entirely evil Some characters experience a transformative phase where by some trial or ordeal their nature is profoundly changed We shall examine Shakespeares stand on human nature in King Lear by looking at specific characters in the play Cordelia who is wholly good Edmund who is wholly evil and Lear whose nature is transformed by the realization of his folly and his descent into madness The play begins with Lear an old king ready for retirement preparing to divide the kingdom among his three daughters Lear has his daughters compete for their inheritance by judging who can proclaim their love for him in the grandest possible fashion Cordelia finds that she is unable to show her love with mere words Cordelia Aside What shall Cordelia speak Love and be silent Act I scene i lines 63-64 Cordelias nature is such that she is unable to engage in even so forgivable a deception as to satisfy an old kings vanity and pride as we see again in the following quotation Cordelia Aside Then poor cordelia And not so since I am sure my loves More ponderous than my tongue Act I Scene i lines 78-80 Cordelia clearly loves her father and yet realizes that her honesty will not please him Her nature is too good to allow even the slightest deviation from her
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