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Lear and Gloucester both illustrate that wisdom does not always come with age. Lear asks his three daughters to express their love for him in public. Both Goneril and Regan have no problem competing for his love, but
when it is Cordelia's turn she refuses to compete because she feels, she can't express the way she feels through words. This refusal enrages Lear, hurts his pride, and causes him to make the foolish mistake of disowning Cordelia:
Have no such daughter, nor shall ever see
That face of her again. Therefore be gone
Without our grace, our love, our benison.
Because of Lear's high position in society, he is supposed to be able to distinguish the good from the bad; unfortunately, his lack of sight prevented him to do so. Lear's first act of blindness is his foolish need of displayed affection by his daughters. First, he was easily deceived by his two eldest daughter's lies, then he was unable to see the reality of Cordelia's true love for him, and as a result, banished her from his kingdom. Lear's most loyal follower Kent, notices Lear's mistake, and attempts to make Lear see how foolish of an action he has just executed. Kent's effort to steer Lear in the right direction backfires. Lear is offended by Kent's attempt to make him go against his word and reverse the disownment on Cordelia. Lear, feeling his pride in jeopardy, goes into a fit of rage and banishes Kent for questioning his judgment:
That thou hast sought to make us break our vow,
Which we durst never yet, and with strain'd pride
To come betwixt our sentence and our power,
Which nor our nature nor our place can bear,
Our potency made good, take they reward.
Lear's blindness causes him to banish his most loyal follower. Kent was able to see Cordelia's true love for her father, and tried to protect her from her blind father's irrationality. Although Kent's intentions were noble, Lear foolishly misinterprets this as an insult to his mental capabilities in making a decision. The problem with Lear is that he cannot admit he has made an error.
Shakespeare hits upon the characteristic human frailty by which denial of a deficiency actually announces the deficiency.
(This Great Stage: Image and Structure in King Lear. Robert Beehtold Heilman)
Beehtold perfectly describes Shakespeare's intent when portraying Lear as such a blind individual. Through showing his blindness Shakespeare is able to show how large Lear's problems actually are. Gloucester also has the problem of
distinguishing between good and bad. Edmund, a bastard son of Gloucester, tricked him into believing that his brother, Edgar wanted to kill him and take his inheritance. He wrote a phony letter which implied all of this. Gloucester became outraged and gave all his trust to Edmund. He even declares:
O villain, villain! His very opinion in the letter!
Abhorred villain! Unnatural, detested, brutish villain!
worse than brutish! Go, sirrah, seek him; I'll appre-
hend him. Abominable villain! Where is he?
When Edmund shows him the letter that is supposedly from Edgar, it takes very little convincing for Gloucester to believe it. As soon as Edmund mentions that Edgar
Names mentioned in this term paper
Gloucester, Edmund, Cordelia,
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