Eastern and Western Perspectives on Loyalty Loyalty is a strong feeling of support and allegiance in which it is reflected upon two proclaimed movies with different setting and subplots, but possesses a similar understanding to what the writer was trying to convey. By watching Olivier’s “King Lear”, and Kurosawa’s "Ran”, the audience finds there are many themes that are portrayed throughout each movie, but the one that provides the largest impact within the plot has to be loyalty. King Lear displays the meaning of loyalty in a western approach with high class Elizabethan characters as its main cast.
The second movie, Ran, is based on an eastern society with conflicting warlords who rule during a particular era. With their differences, also come their similarities. Many characters within their respective movies all share one common analogy, that one should be loyal and faithful to their master. Since the concepts of the two movies are similar, the characters and their roles would parallel each other as well. Lord Hidetora’s advocate, Tango and King Lear’s Earl, Kent have one attribute in common; that they both serve their king with devotion.
The Earl of Kent’s loyalty is shown during the movie after he is banished by King Lear for opposing the idea of disowning his youngest daughter, Cordelia. Kent proves this when he disguises himself as a normal citizen, to obtain proximity with the king. Most men would leave the kingdom, never to return but Kent proves differently. Aside, Kent reveals his plan “Now, banished Kent, If thou canst serve where thou dost stand condemned, So may it come thy master, whom thou lovest, Shall find thee full of labors. ” (I. iv. 24. 4) This quote explains that even though his master condemned him, he is loyal and still willing to serve King Lear.
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From there, he gains King Lear’s trust as “Caius” and works to aid him throughout the rest of the play. Kent’s honesty is also a big role when serving King Lear, since he helps the King to understand his faults about banishing Cordelia from his kingdom, acting as a voice of reason. He’s not afraid to stand up to the King, because he holds King Lear’s best interest at heart even before his own. Kent is very selfless when it comes to his relationship with King Lear, and without prompting would end his own life to continue serving his King even in the afterlife.
Kent tells the Duke of Albany “I have a journey, sir, shortly to go. My master calls me. I must not say no. ” (V. iii. 17. 340) Kent decides to continue serving his king and denies the request from the Duke of Albany to help revive the kingdom that King Lear once ruled. Parallel to Kent from “King Lear”, Tango from “Ran” also had a similar role as Lord Hidetora’s loyal advocate. Tango is banished from Lord Hidetora’s domain because of his negativism towards his Lord’s decision to banish Saburo, since he did not want to deceive his father like his elder brothers.
Tango left Hidetora’s domain, but did not feel it was right to leave his Lord since he made a pledge to serve him, no matter the situation. Tango returns to Lord Hidetora when Hidetora is in need of food and supplies after he, himself is banished from both Taro and Jiro’s castles. Tango explains to Lord Hidetora “I, Tango Hirayama, though banished have followed my lord in disguise. Seeing how you suffer, I beg to offer you these provisions. ” This quote displays that the relationship between Lord Hidetora and Kent are more than servant and Lord and that the trust between the two of them go far beyond even Lord Hidetora and his own sons.
From that part in time, Tango stays with Hidetora for the remainder of the movie while they endure the agony and suffering that tie into the tragedy. The differences between the characters are the strength of their loyalty towards their masters. Kent’s perspective of loyalty is more extreme, since he is willingly to die for King Lear and follow him eternally. Kent puts his service towards his master as his top priority which is more important than his own life. Tango’s approach is more subtle, since he does not take extreme precaution when returning to his King after his banishment, but Tango still has a strong sense of loyalty.
Kent and Tango’s roles within each movie are very significant towards the tragedy. It helps the audience see there are genuine characters within the movies that are not influential towards the tragedy. The loyalty that is instilled within the two characters cause a positive flexure within the tragedy; by helping eliminate the conflict more than continuing the progression towards it. Unlike the positive effect that Kent and Tango had on the plot, Oswald and Kurogane both serve their antagonistic masters, Goneril and Jiro.
Oswald shows his full allegiance to Goneril; he even disobeys King Lear’s attempt to talk to his daughter during Kent’s arrival to the Goneril’s castle and denies Regan’s offer to join her side, also ripping up her letter in the process. Oswald serves Goneril with utter loyalty, but his understanding of devotion is different than a man such as Kent. Oswald explains to the Duke of Cornwall why Kent attacked him “I never gave him any, It pleased the king his master very late To strike at me upon his misconstruction
When he, conjunct and flattering his displeasure, Tripped me behind; being down, insulted, railed, And put upon him such a deal of man That worthied him, got praises of the king For him attempting who was self-subdued. And in the fleshment of this dread exploit Drew on me here again. ” (II. ii. 5. 110) The fight between Kent and Oswald is symbolic, showing a battle between good and evil. Kent’s loyalty is trustworthy but Oswald is a sycophant who attempts to win over people with his insincerely flattery to get what he wants, similar to his master Goneril.
Kurogane is parallel to Oswald with both of them serving the main antagonists of the movies. Kurogane is very loyal to Jiro, acting as his voice of reason when Jiro becomes extremely influenced by Lady Kaede and tries to take over Lady Sue’s position as his wife. When Lady Kaede asks Jiro to slay Lady Sue and bring back her head, Kurogane comes back with a head of a statue, After finding out that Lady Sue is murdered, Kurogane tells Jiro he’s will not let Lady Kaede escape punishment “Who rules this domain,
You or Lady Kaede? I pledged fealty to you, but never to her! ” Similar to Oswald’s scene where he rips Regan’s paper, Kurogane kills Lady Kaede for her disobedience because he serves Jiro, displaying that his loyalty goes towards his master and no one else. There is a comparison between Kurogane and Oswald, but there are also many differences as well. Oswald seems to use flattery in order to display his loyalty towards Goneril, whereas Kurogane is honest towards Jiro and will even step up to Jiro.
Oswald’s loyalty seems cowardly since he hides behind a shadow of lies and Kurogane’s loyalty is sincere and generally, more positive. Oswald and Kurogane’s roles provide influence towards the downfall of the tragic hero and create a progression towards the tragedy. Since they have a negative impact on the storyline, they help magnify the audience’s perspective on the tragedy that is yet to happen. In conclusion, the two movies contain many comparisons and contrasts that approach from two distinct cultures.
The four characters; Oswald along with Kurogane and Tango along with Kent, can relate with and differ against each other. All these characters carry traits of loyalty towards their masters, while each individual can be classified as either good or evil. These characters enlighten the tragedy that both directors portrayed through the plot. Olivier’s “King Lear”, and Kurosawa’s "Ran” is comprised of multiple themes that are depicted during the films, but the theme with the most significance towards the storyline and the tragedy is loyalty.
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