Essay: King Lear Siro

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[. . .] Neither man deserved even remotely this amount of loyalty from people they had treated so miserably, but nevertheless Edgar of his blind father, "he led him, begged for him, saved him from despair" (Lear, p. 140). Kent also lived to see all of Lear's enemies defeated and killed, but in the end all he wished was that the old king mot have to suffer any more and that "upon the rack of this tough world stretch him no linger" (Lear, p. 145). Given all the misfortunes they had experienced and the injustices they had committed, the deaths of Gloucester and Lear and the end of the play were actually quite merciful, although each was permitted to learn the truth before they died.

Neither of the servants in the Decameron was of nearly the same social status as the kings and upper nobility of King Lear, although both also served in households of the merchant and gentry classes. They do not have ties of blood, friendship or feudal vassalage to their masters but simply work for wages, and in both cases they receive some reward for helping the ladies of the house out of very difficult situations. In Decameron 7.8 the widow of Fiesole conspires with her maid and two brothers to embarrass the parish priest who is determined to have an affair with her. He is quite an elderly man even though he acts like a juvenile, and she only feels revulsion towards him. Her maid Ciutazza (the Troll) is also elderly, ugly and name, but in return for a new gown she agrees to sleep with the man, while the widow and her brothers arranged for the bishop to catch them in the act. At one point, the Troll professes some devotion to her mistress, saying "to oblige you, madam, I will sleep with half-a-dozen," and at the end of the story, the priest is caught and forced to do penance (Boccaccio, 1920, p. 393). Unlike King Lear, no one dies in this story, although by customary rights the two brothers of the widow did have the right to kill any man who made improper sexual advances toward their sister, but since he was a priest they refrained from doing so. In story 8.4 Sismonda, the aristocratic wife of a merchant, really is guilty of adultery with a young gentleman named Ruberto, and her husband is determined to catch them and then send her home to her brothers for punishment. One night, he did find Ruberto in the house and chased him outside, while Sismonda promised her maid money if she would take the beating when he came back. She was beaten bloody and had her hair cut off, but never uttered word the whole time except "for God's sake have mercy" when the punishment became too intense (Boccaccio, p. 363). She received her reward and then when the husband returned with her brothers, their questioned his sobriety or mental stability because they saw that Sismonda had not been beaten at all.

Lear was a fool who lost everything in the play, including his kingdom, his dignity, the only daughter who truly loved him and finally his life. Nothing worked out well for him, to put it mildly, or for Kent, who died with him. Gloucester also lost his estate, his sight and finally his life for trusting the wrong son instead of the only who loved and served him faithfully. Lear made a tragic error by dividing his kingdom between his greedy and ruthless daughters, Regan and Goneril, and paid the ultimate price for his foolishness and arrogance. Only too late did Lear's sanity return and he realized who his true friends really were, just as Gloucester learned to see who his loyal and loving son really was only after he had literally been blinded. For almost all the characters in King Lear, though, including Kent, their only reward was death. This was not the case in the Boccaccio stories, since the widow of Fiesole escaped the unwanted attentions of the parish priest while Sismonda continued to see her young lover. In both cases, the male villains ended up humiliated rather than dead, while the servant women were financially rewarded for their loyalty.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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