When speaking of self-knowledge, one must realise exactly what that is. Ones self is inside of him, his soul if you like. But it is also about the place of the person in life, in the world and in relation to others. It is about what the person does or must do. Nevertheless, self-knowledge pertains more than just knowing yourself. It is also about understanding the world one lives in.
The road to self-knowledge however, can be dreadfully long as displayed in
the play of King Lear.
King Lear completely lacks self-knowledge in the beginning of the play.
This is firstly displayed when he asks his daugthers to tell him how much they love him in order to be able to divide his kingdom between them. Two of his daugthers tell him they love him with all they have and cannot love another more. Cordelia, his more honest daugther, who actually does love him, tells him the truth. She loves him ‘’[a]ccording to [her] bond; no more nor less’’ . Nevertheless he goes into a rage and banishes Cordelia. He disinherets her and divides the kingdom between his two flattering manipulating daughters. He then decides to live with each for half a year at the time, keeping his priviliges while stepping down from his throne.
King Lear shows his lack of self-knowledge in this scene in the fact that he has no clue about his own daughters. He fails to recognize the manipulative actions of his two daughters while also failing to see the true love Cordelia offers him. He also refuses to listen to Kent, who tries to reason with him about the true feelings of everyone involved. He is, figuratively speaking, blind to the truth.
An important turning point in the play is the scene where Lear finds himself wandering about outside during a raging storm after being cast out by his vicious daughters. The storm symbolizes both the chaos in the country of Brittain as well as the chaos inside Lear’s mind. He is screaming at the storm to ‘’blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! Rage! Blow! . It shows Lear has gone slightly mad already.
Lear, being stripped of his power and dignity by his vicious daughters, is shocked by his new realizations during the storm. Lear finds himself stripped of his power as king, having lost all his political influence.
The storm and his new position humbles him and gives him the possibility to learn more about himself, starting to increase his self-knowledge.
He finds that even a king is nothing...