Mark 3:25 of The Holy Bible states, "If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand" (The Holy Bible, New International Version, Mark 3:25). King Lear by William Shakespeare is a story that portrays this verse perfectly. Families turn against one another, from the betrayal of Lear's daughters, Goneril and Regan, to the desire for power from Gloucester's son, Edmund. Goneril and Regan show another level of division through their jealousy over love for the same man, Edmund.They break their sisterhood over a man that loves neither of them.
Though some degree of reconciliation does occur, the statement does hold true in that when a house is divided, it falls, as the two sisters die at the hand of one another. King Lear has three daughters, Gonreal, Regan and Cordelia. As he begins to get older, the King looks for a way to choose between his daughters and how to split his kingdom and power. The King decides to test his daughters by asking them to verbally declare their love for him.Goneril and Regan both win the contest by excessively flattering him and expressing their love for him, while Cordelia is more soft-spoken. Cordelia's expression angers her father because he thinks she doesn't love him as much as her sisters.
So even though she is the most sincere, he banishes her and refuses to give her a dowry. Having given away his kingdom to his two oldest daughters, the king intends to spend the rest of his days traveling between their homes. But when he arrives at the home of Goneril, she disrespects and humiliates him by taking away all of his authority.This is the first of many betrayals in the story of King Lear, and another example of a house that falls when it is divided. The tone of the story changes drastically at this point as the king vows his revenge against his disrespectful daughters.
"In a play filled with grandeur, meanness, and complexity mysterious insights into the human condition, the passage in which Lear pleads, 'O, reason not the need,' and then vows 'revenges' upon his cruel daughters (Adams, 223).Betrayals play a critical prole in the tragedy of King Lear, including the plight of two brothers, Edmund and Edgar, the sons of Gloucester. Gloucester, much like King Lear, misjudges his children and chooses to side with the one who is least loyal. Before he became part of King Lear's court, Gloucester was an adulterer and conceived a son, Edmund, out of wedlock. Edmund is so angry about his illegitimate status that he becomes bitter and plots against his brother by making it look as though Edgar tries to kill him and their father.
Edmund obviously longs for a higher status in the kingdom because of how people of a higher hierarchy are viewed. The irony of this is that Shakespeare writes this theme into the play as it mimics real life. "Distinctions within the aristocracy and, more importantly, between aristocrats and commoners are enforced, both on stage and in public, through performance" (Spotswood, 265). Edgar is forced to leave the kingdom so that he is not killed. But the division of this family does not stop Edgar from staying loyal to his father.
Through the years, he disguises himself so he can keep in touch with his father. "In their disguises, their imaginations, and their degraded condition, they reflect the sufferings of the weakest in their society" (Selden 145). Edgar stays by his fathers side through all of life’s hard trails, including his father's blindness, and eventually tells his father that it is he that has been his right hand man through the years. This news is so exciting to Gloucester that he dies of happiness.
The play suggests that betrayers inevitably turn on one another, and there is perhaps no better example of this than the example of Goneril who becomes jealous of her sister, Regan. The sisters, who were once allies, both fall in love with Edmund. Edmond plays the two sisters against one another as he flirts with them both throughout the play. They are rivals in their competition for him, and end up killing one another over their jealousy. Greed, betrayal and the desire for power are obvious themes throughout the tragedy of King Lear.
At the heart of all betrayals lies destructive values. The "houses" in Shakespeare's King Lear that are divided end up falling, just as the quote from Mark 3:23 of The Holy Bible implies. This quote applies in King Lear and we see it in the situation with King Lear and his daughters, Edmunds desire for power from his father, Gloucester, and the jealousy between Regan and Goneril for the love of Edmund. King Lear and Gloucester both make great mistakes by banishing their righteous children and trusting the evil ones, thus their kingdoms, or houses, fall.