Struggles and Decisions of King Lear
“In Shakespeare’s play, King Lear, the story takes place in Britain, where the elderly King Lear struggles to decide which of his daughters will inherit his land and kingdom – Cordelia, Regan or Goneril. In Act I, Kent, the King’s right-hand man, advises him in saying, “See better, Lear.” Throughout the play, Shakespeare emphasizes the theme of blindness. Although the characters aren’t physically blind, they lack a moral vision due to their wealth and power, causing them to make rash decisions over the course of the story. For example, we see this moral blindness take effect in many ways, specifically on main characters such as King Lear.
However, as the play progresses, the audience watches Lear start to regret his bad decisions. Having said that, I do believe King Lear evolves into a more morally aware individual, and, therefore, learns to “see better.” We start to see the first effect of “blindness” in the beginning of the play, when King Lear acts indignantly towards his daughters, especially towards his youngest, Cordelia. Lear forces all three of his daughters to participate in a love test to see who loves him the most as a way to know who to give his kingdom and land to when he passes away. Cordelia refuses to play in this foolish game. Blindness starts to play a role in this scene, and King Lear is unable to see Cordelia’s genuine love for him as a father. However, due to her refusal to participate, King Lear sends Cordelia away, firmly declaring, “we have no such daughter, nor shall we ever see that face of hers again” (Act I, Scene I). He disowns his daughter and gives her away to the King of France because she refused to openly express her love for him in front of the court.
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In this scene, Shakespeare shows his readers that King Lear only sees things that are surface level and artificial, rather than seeing things, like a daughter’s love, for what they truly are. Rather than listening to Cordelia, Lear allows vanity to trump his ability to see reality, and therefore, displays this “blindness” by banishing her and deciding to split his wealth amongst his two other daughters. King Lear is under the impression that he can simply retain his title as King without having any land or citizens to support him. He believes that having his two daughters, Reagan and Goneril, and his hundred knights will satisfy all his needs. Instead of seeking a wiser basis for his decisions, he becomes infuriated when his youngest and most loved daughter, Cordelia, does not obey to his rules like her sisters do.
Lear concludes that Cordelia is arrogant; therefore, he banishes her and strips her of all authority. His blindness and foolishness has led to him to make poor decisions, including exiling his daughter that truly cared about him the most. In the heat of this wrath, Lear believes that what he was doing is right, however we see that this ignorance that consumes him has brought him to a powerless state, where all his wealth will now be split between his two disloyal daughters. This shows how foolish he truly is because he is placing his country in the hands of his other two daughters who only know how to show affection through empty words rather than meaningful actions. Towards the end of the play, Lear finally opens his eyes and realizes the awful things that are happening in his life. He realizes how wicked his two eldest daughters really are when they lock him out of the castle in the midst of a thunderstorm.
During this scene, he endures the harsh nature of the storm and starts to gain insight into the reality of what society is really like. He removes himself of all materialistic items and acknowledges the value of a hut that protects him during the storm. Lear experiences the reality of life as a basic human being and what it’s like outside of his lavish lifestyle in the castle. More importantly, he sees through Cordelia’s lack of flattery during his foolish love test and realizes that her love is so grand for him that she doesn’t need to express it into words. Unfortunately, at the end of the play, Lear’s blindness cost Cordelia her life and, consequently, his life as well.
In conclusion, Lear’s blindness throughout the play has led him to make ignorant decisions. In the end, however, he finally gains insight into the reality of his life and realizes all his mistakes that he has made, which eventually helped him grow as a character. It then becomes clear that perception and insight of your surroundings are extremely vital in society to make reasonable and wise decisions. By using the story of Lear as a warning, Shakespeare ultimately teaches his readers to not be blinded by materialistic desires in order to become a morally aware member of society.”