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King Lear By Shakespeare Wisdom English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1260 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Lear and Gloucester gain wisdom before they die which comes at a dear price for having living life blindly. Lear is entering a new phase in his life and is dividing his kingdom amongst his three daughters. Regan and Goneril express their love for their father to gain the largest portion of land but Cordelia remains silent and has no words to express her love for her father. Lear is shocked and says, “Thou last her, France; let her be thine, for we / Have no such daughter, nor shall ever see / That face of hers again; therefore be gone / Without grace, our love, our benison” (1.1.261-264). Lear banishes Cordelia from his heart and kingdom and on top of that he banishes Kent from the kingdom because he was disagreeing with Lear. Kent is goes back to Lear disguised as someone else to serve him. Lear is indeed blind because he does not find out who is serving him and doesn’t see Kent disguised as someone else. When Lear has no places to go for shelter and no one is going to care for him, his loving daughter, Cordelia, takes Lear in her care. When Lear is being treated for his madness, he says, “You must bear with me. / Pray you now, forget and forgive: I am old and foolish” (4.7.83-84). Towards the end of the play, Lear is starting to get back to 20/20 vision and he is realizing the mistake he made earlier. Not only does he gain wisdom but loses his own life and his daughter’s life due to lack of wisdom he had earlier.

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Gloucester’s blindness didn’t allow him to see the goodness of Edgar and the bad side of Edmund. Edmund wants to take over his father’s wealth and Edgar comes in Edmunds way therefore Edmund makes his father think that Edgar is plotting to kill Gloucester. Edmund shows Gloucester a letter that states Edgar is plotting to kill Gloucester and Gloucester says, “O villain, villain! His very opinion in the letter. Abhorred villain, unnatural, detested, brutish villain; worse than brutish! Go, sirrah, seek him. I’ll apprehend him. Abominable villain! Where is he?” (Act I Scene II Lines 76-80). Though in Gloucester’s mind it seems like his natural son Edgar has in fact betrayed him by plotting to kill him in order to take over his rule, it is obviously a false sense of betrayal because Gloucester doesn’t give a single chance to Edgar to speak about the letter. Hence, making Gloucester blind to one side of the story and not opening his eyes to see the truth. Gloucester has his eyes taken out by Cornwall and his illegitimate son, Edmund, is part of the scheme. When Gloucester is left alone with no one taking care of him, he meets his son, Edgar, who is disguised as a beggar and talks to his father for the first time. Gloucester realizes that his son is dressed as a beggar and says:

He has some reason, else he could not beg,

I’th’last night’s storm I such a fellow save,

Which made me think a man a worm. My son

Came into my mind; and yet my mind

Was then scarce friends with him. I have heard more since:

As flies to wanton boys, are we to th’gods;

They kill us for their sport (4.1.31-38)

Gloucester did not see the true side of Edgar until his eyes was taken out and now he finds out truth of the story that Edmund made up but the truth cost him his own life in the end. Both, Lear and Gloucester gained wisdom at the end but it came at the expense of their life.

Lear and Gloucester do not have a clear understanding of wisdom until they come across someone. The fool in King Lear is an important character. The Fool can say anything to anyone and he will not be punished because he lives outside of the kingdom. The Fool says to Lear, “If thou wert my fool, nuncle, I’d have thee beaten for/ being old before thy time” (1.5.36-37). Shakespeare uses the Fool in the play because whatever the Fool says, it doesn’t affect anyone but the Fool gives his advice to Lear. The Fool also lets Lear aware of that he should not have got old until he was wise. Lear comes across someone who is hinting him about the troubles he is going to face because he is not wise. The Fool gives his opinion more than once in the play and both times, it is about the wisdom of Lear. The Fool doesn’t give his point straight out but gives hints and he says:

We’ll set thee to school to an ant to teach thee there’s

No laboring i’ th’ winter. All that follow their noses are

Led by their eyes but blind men, and there’s not a nose

Among twenty but can smell him that’s stinking. Let go

Thy hold when a great wheel runs down a hill, lest it

Break thy neck with following; but the great one that goes upward,

Let him draw thee after. When a wise man

Gives thee better counsel, give me mine again. (2.3.65-73)

The Fool is pointing out that Lear shouldn’t have given up his land and that he got old before he was wise. The Fool refers to himself as wise because he is giving others advice and he is trying to help Lear gain his wisdom. Basically, Shakespeare puts the Fool into the play to tell the reader that Lear is not wise.

Gloucester is the other father who does not see the truth behinds loving son until he meets him. Gloucester lives in a world of whatever he hears first, he believes. Gloucester does not step into the real world until his eyes are gouged out by Cornwall. Gloucester’s famous line:

I have no way, and therefore want no eyes;

I stumbled when I saw…

Oh! Dear son Edgar, the food of thy abused fathers wrath;

Might I but live to see thee in my touch,

I’d say I had eyes again (4.1.18-23)

Although Gloucester cannot see, once he meets his son, he feels that his eyes have come back. This means when Edgar is away from Gloucester he cannot see reality but when he is with him he can see the truth. All this comes back to the beginning because Gloucester did not let Edgar reveal himself. Had he revealed himself, Gloucester would still have his eyes. In King Lear, both plots are intertwined and Lear and Gloucester don’t meet together until the end of the play when Lear asked Gloucester, “O, ho! Are you there with me? No eyes in your head, nor / no money in your purse? Your eyes are in a heavy case, / your purse in a light: yet you see how this world goes” (4.6.142-145). Lear until this point doesn’t have a good understanding of wisdom until he meets Gloucester. Gloucester has realized his mistakes and learns the truth but Lear finds out the truth in the very end when it is too late which leads to the downfall of Cordelia and Lear. Gloucester on the other hand, gains wisdom before the end but he is a little too late and leads to the downfall of his blindness and then death. Lear and Gloucester both, gain wisdom at a time in their life where it was not much use thus leading to their deaths.

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Lear and Gloucester had not gained wisdom until someone came across and helped them gain wisdom. Both did not gain wisdom at later stage in life and led to their blindness. Both fathers had learned from their mistakes but the age they learned, it was difficult for them to take in the lessons learned. Not only do they learn lessons but they pay a great price for not having wisdom as they aged. In conclusion, Lear and Gloucester gained wisdom a little too late which led to their deaths.


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