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Sacred Reading of King Lear

Note: The sacred reading practice applied here is pardes. I am by no means an expert in the practice, but if you are curious about it I encourage you to find more information here.


"Alas, sir, are you here?" (3.2.42)

In this moment Kent, disguised, is looking for Lear.

The question refers to Lear’s vulnerability both emotionally in his sorrow and rage and physically in being outside in a horrendous storm, locked out of his daughter’s house. Kent questions Lear’s sense of self because of Lear’s daughter’s sudden betrayal and the severe impact of Lear having to manage his emotions and process what happened, coming to terms with his daughter’s choices and his own. The idea of this question relates to the concept of identity in the play. Elsewhere in the text when Lear asks ‘who am I’ he is met with varying responses that all contribute to his mental health. He goes from being king (1.1.1) to “my lady’s father” (1.4.77) to “Lear’s shadow” (1.4.222) to mad (3.4.161) to king again (4.6.106, 196-197). The question also connects to when the old, defeated men Gloucester and Lear must rely on their helpers. That these helpers are in fact Edgar and Kent respectively gives greater weight to being close by to provide whatever aid is necessary since they have such close bonds with the men.

Something to be learned from this text is to not be afraid to look for someone or ask after them. Lear only begins to reclaim a sense of self when Cordelia and Kent care for him. They are persistent in continuing to look for and after him, even when it means going against mandates. There is also a lesson in not allowing a sense of self to derive wholly from one specific job or role. Humans are complex and are therefore comprised of multiple parts, constantly being shaped by many experiences. Lear’s entire identity was tied to being king and he could not cope with what not being king did to his life. It is a balance. Lear’s convalescence in Cordelia’s care demonstrates the need to nurture the emotional, mental, and physical.

This text can be a challenge to be present in the world and not simply moving through it, being mindful of each other, not being afraid to reach out to anyone struggling, and not giving up despite difficulties.

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