Thinking Aloud: Lessons From King Lear

Sept. 20,  2014 by Darius 

Last night, I saw a performance of Shakespeare’s tragedy King Lear, the story of a British king’s descent into madness and his treatment at the hands of the malicious daughters to whom he leaves his kingdom.  Watching King Lear reminded me of a number of lessons that individuals, leaders, and countries should all heed.

  1. Don’t make it all about you. King Lear couldn’t stand to be contradicted and took personal revenge on those who didn’t say what he wanted to hear.  Yet sometimes we all need to hear what is not easy to hear.
  2. Don’t say anything you might want to take back later. In a fit of rage, King Lear banished his only loving daughter and his most faithful servant and advisor.  Later, Lear’s stubborn refusal to seek rapprochement accelerated the loss of his sanity.
  3. Verify your information before acting.  At a number of points throughout the play, Lear and others act rashly based on information from only one source – which turns out to be malicious and false.  Be sure of the facts, verified by multiple sources, before making a big decision.

I’ll admit, I find most Shakespeare, including King Lear, overlong and a bit ponderous, but there are always nuggets scattered throughout that continue to provide insight into the human condition, even in the 21st century.  And the insult “a most toad-spotted traitor” isn’t bad, either.

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