Young Kent, Old Kent?

Here’s something I’ve always wondered.  I can’t remember what made me think of it recently, but what the heck. King Lear.  Kent.  He’s the only one with the guts to stand up to Lear in his fury, and he gets banished for it.  But his loyalty still won’t let him leave Lear’s side, even after all that goes down. So here’s my question – how old is Kent?    Not looking for a specific age, but rather, are we talking about a Kent who is young enough to not know better when he stands up to Lear? Or someone who has been around for a lifetime and thinks (incorrectly) that he can get away with it?  I totally see either of these working.  An old Kent comes off as Lear’s peer, an old man standing by his friend’s side as his friend descends into madness (Gloucester/Lear?). A young Kent, though, would be the son Lear didn’t have, a sort of Edgar/Gloucester parallel. Who knows.  Just rambling a bit.  Is there evidence in the play to suggest one of these theories over the other?

4 thoughts on “Young Kent, Old Kent?

  1. Good question. In Act 1, Scene 4, Kent introduces himself (in disguise) to the King, and when asked his age, says "Not so young, sir, to love a woman for singing, nor so old to dote on her for anything. I have years on my back forty-eight."

    It is possible he's exaggerating or decreasing his age for the purpose of his disguise, but he can't be too much older or younger than forty-eight or he wouldn't be able to pull of the ruse. In contrast, Lear has lived "fourscore years and upwards," so though Kent would be fairly old by his day's standards, he is still not Lear's contemporary.

  2. Thanks Alexi, I remember that line now that you mention it. I guess that blows my theory out of the water, it's not like Shakespeare drops in actual numbers without good reason.

    Having said that, I think that if I was ever editing/directing Lear I might perhaps fail to include that portion of the quote, and leave a little room for creative license :).

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