Discuss the theme of self knowledge in King Lear.
Self knowledge is the corner stone of the play “King Lear’’, as it is the protagonists inability to ‘know thyself’ and be aware of their surroundings, which shape the course of the play. “King Lear” exposes us to a universal and timeless tragedy, where all natural ties are broken between fathers and their offspring, roles are reversed and characters are misled and betrayed.
“Does any here know me?………Who is it that can tell me who I am?”
It is these phrases which indirectly echo throughout the play, as characters are revealed to have either a lack of self knowledge or knowledge of themselves. Protagonists such as King Lear and Gloucester are at first blissfully unaware of all that is going on around them and therefore lack self knowledge. Whilst the lack of self knowledge amongst the Machiavellian characters of the tragedy; Goneril, Regan and Edmund, lead to their scheming actions and ultimately their downfall. At the same time those who are virtuous and pure; Cordellia, Kent and the fool retain self knowledge, and provide accurate glimpses into the future which show the outcome of unwise decisions but they are punished for it. At the beginning of the play there are those who lack self knowledge and those who are defined by it. As the plot develops so does this view as the audience is introduced to something more complex, the merging of the two which at first creates a state of confusion and chaos. Then finally gives rise to a point of acceptance, followed by a quest for forgiveness and then finally a sense of understanding is formed as they gain a true vision of themselves and the world. As the play progresses characters are met with their inner being and for those who ‘know thyself’ nothing is changed but for those who don’t they are suspended in a state of isolation and regret as they realise it is their lack of self knowledge that lead them to their most unfortunate end....
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