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King Lear Self Discovery Essay

By SValZ Jun 10, 2014 945 Words
King Lear- Self Reflection
More than anything else, journeys are about the challenge of self- reflection. A man's journey to self-reflection is inevitably difficult. One will not become completely self-aware until he is able to see the world clearly. This un-blinding will only occur once the person has endured the pains associated with finding oneself. This idea is evident in the tragedy King Lear, by William Shakespeare. Both King Lear himself, as well as Gloucester are deceived and undergo an immense amount of suffering, both physically and mentally, before they are finally able to see the world clearly and come to self-reflection. This path occurs in the form of a cycle. A tragic hero will fall from his position of superiority to one of suffering and misery before he rises again, now with wisdom and knowledge. Shakespeare develops these ideas through the sufferings of characters, and the process of un-blinding that will lead them in their path to self-reflection. Blindness is usually defined as the inability of the eye to see but, as Shakespeare proves, it can also refer to a mental flaw. In King Lear, it is not defined as the inability of the eye to see, but as a mental flaw that prevents some people from seeing the truth. Lear and Gloucester both display the characteristic of only seeing what is presented on the surface. Their attitude and confidence proves to be a major downfall in the course of their life. Although King Lear is not physically blind, he displays many acts of mental blindness. He displays his lack of sight when he is deceived by two of his daughters. He is made vulnerable to destruction by his lack of insight. A king should be aware of things going on in his presence however Lear isn’t. His blindness also causes him to banish his daughter, Cordelia, because he does not see the love she has for him. King Lear’s vision improves throughout the play but not before he also banishes a very loyal follower, Kent. The terrible decisions that King Lear makes, ultimately leads to his own downfall. Gloucester was also plagued by mental blindness. He was blind to see the good in his bastard son, Edgar and the evil ways of his son, Edmund. He allowed Edmund to cloud his vision with evil ideas that Edgar was plotting to kill him. It was not until the Duke of Cornwall removed his eyes that he was able to see the truth concerning the loyalty/love and disloyalty/hatred of his sons. He stated, “I stumbled when I saw” (Act 4 Scene 1, line 17). This ironic statement made by Gloucester speaks volumes. It is clearly evident through their discovery of the truth/their mistakes after becoming blind that their inner journeys are an evidence to the fact journeys are about the challenges of self-reflection. As Lear wanders about a desolate heath in Act 3, a terrible storm, strongly but ambiguously symbolic, rages overhead. In part, the storm echoes Lear’s inner turmoil and mounting madness: it is a physical, turbulent natural reflection of Lear’s internal confusion. After unhappily leaving Gloucester's castle, Lear and the Fool find themselves outside in a fierce storm. It is through his anger over his last confrontation with his "family" and the power of the storm that begin the process of change within Lear. This change which at its heart is also change of vision. What must change is how Lear sees himself, his children, and the world around. At the beginning of Lear's time in the storm, he is seeing the treachery of his daughters Regan and Goneril. This truly creates the anger within him. He expresses his anger at the storm by trying to coax the storm to be even fiercer to him. Lear states that since those who owe him everything are so harmful to him, why shouldn't the storm which owes him nothing be any less? However, it is also here that Lear begins to see himself not as the "Almighty King", but as a poor, infirm, weak, and despised old man." (Act 3 Scene 1). Though he still believes himself to be not at fault in any way. This is especially shown when Lear says, "I am a man more sinn'd against than sinning." (Act 3 Scene 2). After this however, Lear begins another change, and that is having more empathy for others. The first person that comes into mind is the Fool. Lear worries if the fool is cold out in the storm, and begins to see how precious necessities can be if you suddenly are without them. This caring for others continues just before entering the hovel. Lear know begins to just think of those around him, but humanity as a whole. He begins to think of the poor who brave storms like this with the little that they have. Lear says, "Poor naked wretches, whereso'er you are, that bide the pelting of this pitiless… defend you" (Act 3 Scene 4). Lear, then self-reflects in accordance to his actions of how he has not helped the poor. He states that he must be exposed to the same harshness they have endured. He believe this will be part of some heavenly justice. Journeys are about the challenge of self-reflection which is clearly evident through the notion of un-blinding the ‘inner eye’ when becoming blind, that has assisted both Lear and Gloucester who both displayed acts of mental blindness, to come to a realisation of the truth and reflect upon their motives. After the both physical and inner journey of the characters in King Lear, we are able to conclude that journeys are in fact greatly about the challenge of self-reflection.

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