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Caius in Shakespeare's King Lear: Traits & Analysis

Instructor: Ann Casano

Ann has taught university level Film classes and has a Master's Degree in Cinema Studies.

Sometimes there is loyalty even after death. In this lesson, we will learn about Caius from 'King Lear.' He was one of William Shakespeare's most devoted and faithful characters ever put to paper.

The Mad King

In Shakespeare's tragic play, 'King Lear,' the titular character is the king of Britain. At the outset of the play, the aging king decides it's time to retire. He has three daughters but no son to take over the throne. So just like the crazy king that he is, Lear decides to play a game to see who will inherit his great wealth. His money will go to the daughter who says she loves him most.

The Daughters of King Lear
Daughters

Unfortunately for the king, Cordelia - the one daughter who does actually love him - refuses to play his silly game. However, Regan and Goneril have no problem making up false declarations of love.

The king exiles Cordelia, who eventually marries the King of France. Lear decides to split up his great wealth between the two daughters who only pretend to love him. The Earl of Kent sees that this is a huge mistake, and he attempts to persuade the king not to renounce Cordelia. Because the king is proud and doesn't appreciate back talk, he boots Kent out of the kingdom instead of listening to reason.

Kent/Caius Tries to Help Cordelia
The Earl of Kent

The Traits of Kent (aka Caius)

If there is one word to describe Kent's character, it is 'loyal'. Kent makes it his lot in life to protect the king. So he comes up with a disguise as a peasant and returns to King Lear under the alias Caius, just so he can have the opportunity to serve him once again.

And being a servant to King Lear is no picnic. Neither of Lear's remaining daughters wants to put up with the king's entourage of knights, so the king finds himself homeless, wandering around the countryside in all kinds of inclement weather. But Caius remains by his side, even as the king grows more and more insane as the narrative moves forward.

King Lear Goes Insane
King Lear

Caius Sends for Help

Caius always knew that Cordelia loved her father. So he sends a messenger to France to let her know exactly how her sisters have treated dear old dad. Outraged, Cordelia brings French troops to Britain in order to fight for King Lear. Unfortunately, it doesn't turn out well. Cordelia is captured and hanged.

The king, who is now almost completely mad, is aware that he shunned the one daughter who actually loved him. Caius attempts to assuage Lear. He tells him of his great loyalty and how he has disguised himself as a peasant in order to serve and protect him.

But the revelation is too little, too late for the king. With his dear Cordelia in his arms, he dies of grief. By now almost every major character in 'King Lear' is dead, including all three of Lear's daughters.

The Only Daughter Who Loved Him
Lear

A Chance to Rule

There is no real justice in 'King Lear.' Almost every character dies, good and bad. But someone needs to rule the kingdom. Why not Caius, who has displayed his loyalty to the king every treacherous step of the way?

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