Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Cordelia’s love.

Three are the daughters of King Lear: Goneril, Regan and Cordelia. Three, like the stages of life in the riddle of the Greek Sphinx.

King Lear daughters are portrayed by Shakespeare from the riddle their father use in order to test the sincerity of their love. King Lear wants to know if he is really loved and to investigate their hearts he is carefully scrutinizing their words: Goneril, the first one to answer, reveal her insincerity through her arrogance. Goneril’s speech is full with flattery and deceit; as though she praised her father for the sake of personal gain. Regan is the second one to claim love for her father; she, too, reveal the truth through her insincerity. Her egocentric behavior is clearly reflected as she egotistically uttered her love and claim, through comparison, that is greater than Goneril’s love. Cordelia is the last one to speak. She’s a delicate girl not trying to deceive her father that’s why through her words King Lear can glimpse into the truth. She did not try to impress Lear, and she is not indiscreet as her sisters who are too open in what they say. Shakespeare uses a clear metaphor for her: “my love’s more richer than my tongue” (Act I, Scene I), because words are incapable to tell the authentic depth of love. Every word is an attempt to conceive the real truth that only facts can reveal.

King Lear, on his side, is deeply unfair because he tries to put a price tag on his daughter’s affection, he clearly test them with the promise for his wealth. Love versus gold, another impossible conversion, although so common. Cordelia’s speech comes from her depths, from the source of all truth, therefore her words are meaningful: honesty speaks a language that is sharper than swords. At the end, it is not Lear testing Cordelia, but is her true love that puts King Lear on the bench. Cordelia’s love, “richer than her tongue”, teaches Lear that there is something way deeper than words: the deep simplicity of love. “Unhappy that I am – says Cordelia –, I cannot heave. My heart into my mouth. I love your majesty. According to my bond; no more nor less.” For Cordelia life is not “a box of chocolate where you never know what you’re gonna get” as in the unwise advice of Mrs. Gump to his son. Life is always about meaning, not about what you can get. Those who forget this important lesson, forget at the same time what true life is.

Cordelia's key word is in her apparently simple reply: “Nothing,” a word that will reappear several times throughout the play. “Nothing” is as a reminder to King Lear that he really does understand “nothing”, and when he finally sees the truth, he realizes that it is into the depth of nothingness that truth is to be searched for. It seems that the most touching part of the play is in this apparently simple word “Nothing”, which is echoed at the end of the play. The word “Nothing” comes again in Macbeth when the nobleman will say that the entire life is a story “Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Well, Cordelia’s answer is then both for Lear and for Macbeth: life could “signifying nothing” when love cannot be richer than your tongue.
(Dr. Divago)