Cordelia is totally different: she does not thrive on flattery and does not understand the significance of it.
Naturally King Lear does not understand that she loves him, and is deceived by Goneril and Regan's 'love' which 'reveals' itself in their flattery by which they procure a dowry of half the country in the end...
For Lear, in the beginning, love is a material thing that is measurable: in a dowry, in words, in actions. For Cordelia and Kent, this is not the case. They see love/loyalty as honesty and a defending force. And that is where both views conflict: Lear misinterprets both Cordelia and Kent's words and actions and concludes they don't love him. So, he denies her her dowry (which was to him a sign of his love for her) and he denies him his function as courtier (which was also a pledge of love to him).
One has to laugh before being happy, because otherwise one risks to die before having laughed.
"Je crains [...] que l'âme ne se vide à ces passe-temps vains, et que le fin du fin ne soit la fin des fins." (Edmond Rostand, Cyrano de Bergerac, Acte III, Scène VII)
I think we can certainly see that Lear and Cordelia had different ideas of love and professing love during the ceremony scene at the beginning of the play. Cordelia knows she loves her father and doesn't understand why she has to profess it in the manner that he's asking her to. Lear asks his daughters, "Which of you shall we say doth love us most?" rather than "Which of you doth love us most?"
You could say "to be loved" means in part "to be flattered," but wouldn't that negate the love that Cordelia has for her father? Maybe Lear doesn't feel loved/flattered, but certainly Cordelia loves him.
I think Lear offers a fabulous message of Redemption through true love,but also with a warning not to be foolish with loved ones. I found the ending truely uplifting and full of hope. And the Earl of Kent is a true star and model of devoted and wise love. Im very suprised many find it nihilistic.
I wouldn't call it uplifting but it does serve as a warning and a plea to the young and old generations to understand each other.
Some have argued that at the moment of death Shakespeare's characters seem to undergo some kind of sublime vision. Lear seems to see something in Cordelia and Gloucester's heart breaks smilingly.
Lear is nihilistic, but then Shakespeare pretty much was a nihilist. Harold Bloom wrote of an undecurrent of nihilism even in the comedies. But life is redeemed by the beautiful, sublime, radiant language which in itself lifts the audience out of themselves. And the nihilism itself is often strangely uplifting. I am thinking of Prospero's great lines "We are such stuff as dreams are made on/ And our little life is rounded with a sleep". That should be a depressing statement, yet it seems joyful and liberating.