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Comparing Lear And Gloucester In Shakespeare's King Lear

1928 words - 8 pages

     In Shakespeare's classic tragedy, King Lear, there are several characters who do not see the reality of their situation. Two such characters are Lear and Gloucester. Both characters exhibit a blindness to the world around them. Lear does not see clearly the truth of his daughters mentions, while Gloucester is also blinded by Edmond's treachery. This failure to see reality leads to Lear's intellectual blindness, which is his insanity, and Gloucester's physical blindness that leads to his trusting tendencies. Each character achieves inner awareness at the end as their surreal blindness is lifted and they realize the truth. Both Lear and Gloucester are characters used by Shakespeare to show the relevance of having a clear vision in life.

Lear's vision is marred by lack of direction in life, poor foresight and his inability to predict the consequences of his actions. He cannot look far enough into the future to see the consequences of his actions. This, in addition to his lack of insight into other people, condemns his relationship with his most beloved daughter, Cordelia. When Lear asks his daughters, who loves him most, he already thinks that Cordelia has the most love for him. However, when Cordelia says: "I love your Majesty according to my bond, no more nor less." (I, i, 94-95) Lear cannot see what these words really mean. Goneril and Regan are only putting on an act. They do not truly love Lear as much as they should. When Cordelia says these words, she has seen her sister's facade, and she does not want to associate her true love with their false love. Lear, however, is fooled by Goneril and Regan into thinking that they love him, while Cordelia does not. This is when Lear first shows a sign of becoming blind to those around him. He snaps and disowns her:

Let be so! Thy truth then be thy dower!
For, by the sacred radiance of the sun,
The mysteries of Hecate and the night;
By all the operation of the orbs
From whom we do exist and cease to be;
Here I disclaim all my paternal care,
Propinquity and property of blood,
And as a stranger to my heart and me
Hold thee from this for ever. The barbarous Scythian,
Or he that makes his generation messes
To gorge his appetite, shall to my bosom
Be as well neighboured, pitied, and relieved,
As thou may sometime daughter. (I, i, 110-123)

Not only does he disown her, but he also banishes her from his land altogether. This drastic and rash action shows that Lear's mental state, and blindness is perilously unstable. Kent, who has sufficient insight, is able to see through the dialogue and knows that Cordelia is the only daughter who actually loves Lear. He tries to convince Lear of this, however Lear lacks the insight Kent has. He only sees what is on the surface, and cannot understand the deeper intentions of the daughter's speeches. His anger grows from the argument, and foresight diminishes, as he becomes increasingly rash and narrow minded.

     Prior to the loss of his eyes,...

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