King Lear

The Value of Nothing College

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) defines worth (n.) as the position or standing of a person in respect of property. On the other hand, worth is also defined as the character or standing of a person in respect of moral or intellectual qualities; esp. high personal merits or attainments. Today, it is much more respectable to have moral worth or self worth than material worth. People are valued more in society for being upright and honest. However, in Shakespearian times, it seems that society placed material wealth over moral righteousness. This warped value system is prevalent especially in Shakespeare’s King Lear. It is clear that characters value their peers and themselves based on their property and riches rather than their personalities. Furthermore, it is the characters’ twisted perception of worth and devaluation of so called “worthlessness” or “nothingness” that drives the central plot and conflicts present in King Lear. Regan, Goneril, Edmund, and Lear himself all believe in the value of material wealth and are ultimately consumed by their superficiality. Contrastly, characters like the Fool are worthless in terms of wealth, but are in reality the wisest and most admirable.

The first instance “worth” is seen is in...

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