Kent’s role in the play

Kent remains faithful to King Lear throughout the play – both to the man and to the idea of kingship which he represents (see Servanthood, obedience and authority). From his very first appearance he establishes himself as a character firmly on the side of truth and justice. Indeed he stands up for these virtues even when it is dangerous for him to do so. 

Evidence of Kent’s loyalty to Lear

From the start, Kent wants the best for his king. Thus he attempts to dissuade Lear from carrying out his disastrous decision to banish Cordelia, when she honestly admits that her love will go to her husband as well as her father. However, the King immediately banishes him for daring to step between himself and his daughter. Undeterred by the unjust treatment he has received, Kent disguises himself and tries to help Lear when he is rejected by Goneril and Regan. He is successful in keeping Lear safe from possible murder and he brings Lear and Cordelia together at Dover.

Kent compared to Oswald

Kent’s behaviour is in sharp contrast to that of Oswald, Goneril’s steward and their conflict is at the centre of an important theme in the play: the relationship between virtue and gentlemanly behaviour. Kent is unfailingly honest and loyal whereas Oswald the courtier is only interested in serving his own selfish ambitions.

Kent’s role at the end of the play

Kent's ability to protect has its limits. When Cordelia's invasion from France fails, Kent is powerless to act when she and Lear are captured by Edmund. Kent expresses huge sorrow as he witnesses the King's death: ‘Break, heart; I prithee, break!’ (Act 5 Scene 3) Although it is unclear whether he is referring to the King’s heart or his own, his cry speaks deeply from the play's tragic core.

Kent, the suffering pilgrim

Kent accepts degradation in order to journey faithfully alongside his King, an idea that echoes the Christian concept of pilgrimage and Jesus’ instruction to believers to follow him (see Pilgrims and Pilgrimage). 
This perspective is strengthened when, at the end of the play, Kent declares:
      I have a journey, sir, shortly to go;
My master calls me, I must not say no. (Act 5 Scene 3).
Kent portrays that human suffering can have a noble aspect. The idea of dying as a journey with the possibility of reunification after death provides some hope amongst the darkness.
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