Do all old men truly possess wisdom because they can see their death on the horizon? Wisdom is a valued trait in our society today. In both King Lear by William Shakespeare and Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom, the main characters were able to acquire wisdom after undergoing trials and tribulations. However, both of these men began their quest as completely different people. Morrie always emphasized the value of family and of love, while King Lear saw these qualities that could be used to boot his ego. Morrie was disappointed by the way things were in society, while King Lear did not care much about it and accepted it the way it was. Morrie viewed death as a natural thing and an ideal way to live, while King Lear still wanted to live life as a King despite giving and dividing his land between his daughters. Regardless of being very different character wise and beliefs, both King Lear and Morrie came to achieve wisdom by experiencing the fact of life; otherwise known as death.
Both of these men differed in their values when it came to the life concept. Morrie believed that it was better to perish than to live a life without love, where he quoted “If you don’t have the support and love and caring and concern that you get from a family, you don’t have much at all. Love is so supremely important. As our great poet Auden spoke “Love each other or perish””(Albom 91). This quote shows Morrie’s view of love and has the opinion that it is better to die than to live a life without love. Although Morrie grew up with little love in his life, this is the reason why he emphasized the importance of love and family to him. Contrarily, King Lear believed that family only existed to serve his needs.
“Tell me, my daughters, since now we will divest us both of rule, interest of territory, cares of state which of you shall we say doth love us most that we out largest bounty may extend where nature doth with merit challenge?” (I.I.47-53). This quote illustrates King Lear’s feeling towards family. He set against his daughters against each other for his benefit. His love was conditional, even though Cordelia was his known favourite between his daughters he warned her. “ How, how, Cordelia? Mend your speech a little, lest you may mar your fortunes.” (I.I.94-95).
This quote shows the fact that he believed that love in a family that is one-sided, he should only receive love but should not give any. On the contrary, Morrie’s love for this family was unconditional and a two-way street. However, Lear realized the value of unconditional love when Cordelia returned despite after disowning and cursing her but he was too late. While Morrie learned the value of love through the lack of having it earlier o in his life, King Lear would learn it through the death of his daughter. Both cherish family and life more after coming to terms with the concept of death, and realize the trouble of their society.
Both King Lear and Morrie Schwartz also had different perspectives on life and society. King Lear accepted the ranking of his society, of course, since he was the peak of the “great chain of being”. “All I ask is that you provide me with a hundred knights for my own entourage. I’ll keep only the title of king…” (I.I.136-138). This quote depicts King Lear’s view of society and that he comes before the rest of society, depriving 100 knights form society for his benefit. Morrie, on the other hand, was disgusted with how his society was so materialistic. A quote from Tuesdays with Morrie, “Do you know how they brainwash people? They repeat something over and over again.
And that’s what we do in this country. Owning things is good. More money is good. More property is good. More commercialism is good…we repeat it and have it repeated to us-over and over until nobody bother to even think other wise” (Albom 124). This quote demonstrates the disgust Morrie has with society and how it constantly promotes materialism rather than important values such as love, which is showed in this quote “You know how I always interpreted that? These people were so hungry for love that they were accepting substitutes” (Albom 125). This quote shows that Morrie believes that people are materialistic because of a lack of love within their lives. Furthermore, King Lear realizes the disorder of his society during his hardships. “Thou rascal beadle, hold thy bloody hand. Why dost thou lash that whore? Strip thine own back Thou hotly lust’st to use her in that kind for which thou whipp’st her. The usurer hangs the cozener. (IV.VI.152-57).
This shows both his disgust of the social customs of his time and how it favors the rich and frowns upon the poor. Lear regrets not being a just king and mistreating the poor people because he was too greedy. He bawled “Poor naked wretches, whereso’er you are, that bide the pelting of this pitiless storm, how shall your houseless heads and unfed sides, your looped and windowed raggedness, defend you from seasons such as these? Oh, I have ta’en too little care of this!” (III.IV.30-34). Although Morrie was aware of the problems within his society and always fought against them, Lear only came to this conclusion and earn this wisdom through these tribulations.
Morrie and Lear had contradicting views of death before they acquired their wisdom. First of all, Lear believed that he would die as a king and even with his old age he believed death was far in the distance, proven in the quote “All I ask is that you provide me with hundred knights for my own entourage. I’ll keep only the title of king…” (I.I.136-138). Lear did not believe in preparing for his death or saying goodbye to loved ones, as he still wanted to live like a king even after diving his kingdom and wealth. On the contrary, Morrie believed that death should be accepted in life. “Oh yes, you strip away all that stuff and you focus on the essentials. When you realize you are going o die, you see everything much differently…Learn how to die, and you learn how to live”(Albom 83). This quote shows that Morrie though if more people lived as if they were going to die at any moment, then the world could be a more positive place.
Morrie was also very optimistic and grateful for his disease and how long he had to say goodbye to everyone he cherished. “It’s horrible to watch my body wilt away to nothing. But it’s also wonderful because of all the time I get to say good-bye.” (Albom 57) On the other hand, King Lear was coming to terms with his mortality. When Gloucester asked to kiss his hand he replied “Let me wipe it first, it smells of mortality.” (IV.VI.125-126). It shows that Lear found his new humbleness and acceptance through death.
Morrie and Lear both achieved wisdom by coming to terms with their deaths. King Lear and Morrie Schwartz are very much alike, although they were completely different people before they acquired their wisdom. They were both able to attain insight and satisfaction through difficult hardships and becoming aware of the problems that are in their society. They have learned that if more people are aware of death and live everyday as if they were to die tomorrow, they would have more fulfilling and satisfying lives. Through acquiring wisdom they realized the importance of their family, and love. They only differed in respect where Lear is filled with regret while Morrie gains a higher appreciation for it. Death is something that we all must accept and Lear and Morrie finally embrace it.
Courtney from Study Moose
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