The play King Lear examines the concept of appearance and reality. The issues of madness and blindness become powerful symbols reinforcing this central concept.
The two universal themes, madness and blindness relate to our modern life because in our everyday life we go through this central dilemma and King Lear teaches us to look beyond superficial elements. For example; throughout the whole entire play, King Lear was blinded by the truth as result of his foolishness in which he rejects truth, due to his selfish vanity- He speaks to Cordelia: ‘Nothing will come of nothing’ and ‘Mend your speech a little. Lest it may mar your fortunes’, this suggests that if one does not speak, then one will not reciprocally receive anything.
Instead he banishes Cordelia and accepts the lies from his two elder daughters and the Gloucester family that cause the Kingdom and King Lear to lose all its precious values and morals. Madness was one of the most dominant themes in King Lear because throughout the play King Lear goes mad because of the betrayal from his daughters, his loss and how he ruined his fate. For example, when King Lear was told by the fool that his pride lead to a ruined kingdom, Lear was furious and devastated, he became confused and lost all his precious values and morals, this soon left to his downfall.
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As shown in Act 1 Scene 5 the fool tells Lear that his making bad decisions and that listening to Regan will not be any better than the situation with Goneril. Lear is ignorant and still ignores the wise fools’ opinion and once again Lear is deceived and becomes mad. However, once Lear goes mad he loses his wisdom but reality becomes clearer to him, ironically, Lear is supposedly the wiser person in this play as he is a king with power and responsibility.
Nevertheless, the fool which is believed to be childish and juvenile is the one who offers insight and comes up with the important advice. It was Lear’s stubbornness which didn’t let in the advice because he only wanted to hear what sounded pleasant. Shakespeare’s work heavily emphasises the importance of historical contexts in his pieces, in particular the play King Lear where delicacy and creativity played an important role in characterising King Lear and the extraordinary use of themes and language that allowed the play to be successful.
Furthermore, this play has also clearly adapted to the modern world because it relates its audience to look into their own souls and consider what it’s like to be a human being, whether it is easy to see through lies or be fooled by them. This is also relevant to every human being in every time and culture because as humans we only accept and take in what we want to hear. Moreover, Shakespeare uses the concept of “Blindness and Madness” as a central theme and relates to the modern world because it gives us a personal insight into the concept of life, which is the essence of being a human being.
King Lear becomes mad and struggles to maintain sanity as he is tormented by the pain endured during his life and the responsibilities held as King and as he questions his daughters’ betrayal of trust that suggests in human life, madness is a natural occurrence when one lacks meaning in life- ‘Ingratitude thou marble-hearted fiend, More hideous, when thou show’st thee in a child than the sea-monster”.
This is one of the many examples where Lear is expressing his fury towards himself and his foolishness for believing the lies; he blames himself for ruining his given power of being a king. Another example where Lear is showing the suffering of how vulnerable and his outrage of having an unfaithful daughter is when he quotes: “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is, to have a thankless child”.
Appearance and Reality was a crucial element in Shakespeare’s play as it is constantly used throughout the whole play, whether it was family or friends. Appearance and Reality is evident in Act 1 Scene 1 when Cordelia doesn’t speak false words because she doesn’t find it in her heart to tell lies just to overrun a kingdom, however, from King Lear’s perspective she seems rude, unfaithful and untrue. Once King Lear banishes Cordelia, the kingdom starts to emotionally fall apart and King Lear loses all his values and morals.
For instance, King Lear believes the lies that Goneril and Regan tell because he is vain and enjoys sycophancy, but as Cordelia refuses to speak of lies and tell the truth Lear gets irritated and banishes her from the castle as quoted ‘I am unhappy that I am, I cannot hear my heave my heart into my mouth; I love your majesty according to my bond, no more nor less’ emphasising the contemplation she has to hereby the words of King Lear as his daughter. Another example of appearance and reality was the love triangle between Edmond, Goneril and Regan. The two evil sisters were both ttracted to Edmund because of the mutual conflict between their two families; Edmund’s wickedness made both sister’s betray each other and in the end all that they were fighting over was worth nothing because the outcome for both sister’s was death. In Shakespeare’s play King Lear, forcefulness of love was a significant and empowering theme as the three daughters are forced to recite their love for Lear. However, King Lear is looking for a more over exaggerated and fictitious description of how loyal and faithful Cordelia can be. Cordelia refrains herself from doing so because she isn’t selfish and is honest.
In the opening scene Act 1 Scene 1, in the lines “Then poor Cordelia, And yet not so, since I am sure my love’s more ponderous than my tongue” Family relationships also played a critical role because it showed betrayal, wickedness and Lear’s foolishness in rejecting Cordelia’s true love. However, Cordelia still remained loyal towards Lear despite all his cruelty towards her In Conclusion, King Lear has successfully related itself to the modern world by incorporating the concept of appearance and reality, family relationships, forcefulness of love and blindness and madness.
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