Kent represents the embodiement of liyalty in the play. His life is dedicated to serving Lear. As Lear's courtier, he has a duty to advise the King, to tell the truth and in the opening scene he does this even though he has to bear Lear's wrath. When Lear warns "Kent on thy life no more" he replies "My life I never held but as a pawn to wage against thy enemies, nor fear to lose it, thy safety being the motive". Kent's outspoken protest has serious consequences as Lear's pride blinds him to reality and Kent, like Cordelia, is banished. Kent recognises that the Lear of the opening scene is not himself "Be Kent unmannerly when Lear is mad". It is Kent who first indicates to the audience that Lear is indeed acting out of character. His role in the opening scene is to represent to the audience the change that has occured in Lear. Through his eyes we see the noble Lear of his prime, the ruler who swore fealty (loyalty) to him many years before. Kent's loyaltyto Lear is such that he risks death in not obeying the order to leave, instead he adopts the disguise of Caius in order to serve the King.
This new persona retains much of the original Kent, he is still a plain, blunt man. This allows him to speak his mind truthfully, which as in the opening scene, leads him into trouble. His rashness and bluntness leads him to tangle with Oswald, be placed in the stocks and give Goneril and Regan a pretext for their inhospitability to Lear. His loyalty, however, remains constant and on the heath he cares for Lear, still addressing him with the old terms of respect, "My Lord", "Your Grace", "Sir". This is to provide the audience with a reminder that Lear is deserving of such loyalty and respect,that he is the hero of the play and that his present condition is caused only by a single flaw in his personality.
His bluntness is again apparent when he speaks to Cornwall "Sir, 'tis my occupation to be plain" and then proceeds to directly insult him. At the end of the play his desire is nothing more than to accompany Lear to death, "I have a journey, Sir, shortly to go. My master calls me, I must not say no". This self-sacrificing loyalty is appreciated by Cordelia "Oh thou good Kent, how shall I live and work to match thy goodness".
Kent's main driving force is his absolute devotion to duty and his love for Lear. He is a constant measure of truthfullness in the play.
Home : The Parallels between the Sub Plot and The Main Plot : The Theme of Love