Manipulation: the skillful control bysomething or someone. It is psychological manipulation through emotional exploitationof the victim in order to gain privilege at the victim’s expense; in this case,the victims being King Lear and Gloucester. Manipulation is the most prominent motifin this play, and encompasses both plots; the plot with King Lear and the plotwith Gloucester.
The manipulation of others in King Lear is a recurring event that involves all characters andtakes place over the course of the play. Since the beginning, King Lear is thecharacter who began the theme of manipulation, unknowingly leading the kingdomto succumb to complete chaos. In Shakespeare’s King Lear, the reversal of power and hierarchal positions is a recurringevent and is the result of constant manipulation used by characters in order tobenefit them. When portraying the manipulation ofothers, diction plays a very important role. Throughout this passage, there isthe constant repetition of the royal “we” from Lear. When referring to asovereign, the “we” typically means “I”, however it is only used duringofficial situations and when dealing with the commonwealth, indicating that, asLear is referencing his daughters, he views them as less important and oflesser status.
There is also a clear shift of dictionin this passage, separating two of Lear’s thoughts: his death and the love ofhis daughters. When referencing his death and the splitting of the kingdom, thewords used are very dark, aggressive, and unpleasant. He references “crawlingto his death”, portraying a potentially painful, slow and long death, where onewould suffer (1.1.41). When referencing Cordelia and telling his daughters toprofess their love for him, Lear use of vocabulary is more positive, usingwords such as “love” and “amorous”. Due to Lear’s constant need forself-gratification; he is constantly searching for others to boost his ego to solidifythat he is of more importance and has and honourable death. .
The constant irony and foreshadowingin this passage is also extremely significant as it sets up what is going tobegin to occur in the near future and contributes to the overall meaning andsignificance of the play. At the beginning of this passage, Lear states that”he has divided in three the kingdom”, already designating which daughterwould inherit each part of the kingdom, Cordelia the most, and Goneril andRegan the least. Although he already knew what portion everyone was going toinherit, he still requested that his daughters explain how much they love him,in order to continue to feed his ego. When asking “which of his daughtersloves him most” he continued on to say that “the largest bounty may extendwhere nature doth with merit challenge” (1.1.52).
In doing this he manipulateshis daughters, Goneril and Regan, into proclaiming their love for him, byleading them to believe they have a chance of inheriting the largest part ofthe kingdom. Lear does this in order to solidify that he is of more importanceand to boost his ego- although he gets no real gratification from it. This isthe earliest and most significant form of manipulation in the play, as Learallows himself to be manipulated by his daughters, blind to the fact that Goneriland Regan do not actually love him. Although Lear has somewhat good intentions,as he wishes to “shake all cares and business from his age” and “preventthe future strife”, his manipulation of the situation and of his daughters iswhat leads to the upcoming chaos- something that he is trying to avoid(1.1.
39,44-45). In trying to prevent conflict, he creates it by willinglygiving away all his power and his kingdom to his two daughters, Goneril andRegan, who do not care for him or love him at all.