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Character Analysis: King Lear and Earl of Gloucester

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King Lear

Every situation in life has an appearance, and a reality. The appearance of a situation is usually what we want to see. The reality, what is really going on, is not always as obvious to the observer. People who cannot penetrate through the superficial appearance of a situation will see only what they want to believe is true; often, the reality of a situation is unappealing to the perceiver. These are the circumstances surrounding the conflict that occurs in William Shakespeare's King Lear. As an audience, you find that there is a major character flaw in the characters King Lear and the Earl of Gloucester. In the story, neither of these two men are able to establish the difference, in their minds, between what people are saying and doing, and what these people's true motives are behind their actions. This enables Lear and Gloucester to be betrayed by their own blood, and become isolated from those who have their interests at heart. It is the inability to differentiate between appearance and reality that causes Lear and Gloucester to fall.

It seems, that in King Lear, appearance, or reputation defines character. Edgar says as much in soliliquy, when he disguises himself as Poor Tom. As soon as he changes out of his expensive clothing, and into his beggar drab he decides "Edgar I nothing

am."(II.iii.21). Although he is still Edgar beneath his disguise, when he is encountered by his own father Gloucester and his godfather Lear, neither of the two recognise him. It becomes apparent that as soon as Edgar's costume changed, all perceptions of his character did as well. This same situation is paralleled when Kent, also banished, returns in disguise as Lear's servant Caius. When Lear first sees his long time co...

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...ast these surface concepts and develop some understanding of reality. From what has been said, it can be seen that the fall of King Lear, paired with the subplot of Gloucester's betrayal by Edmund provides many parallels which reinforce one another. We watch, in King Lear, these two aging men fall from positions of respect and power to being the simple and abused nothings of society. Furthermore, we see these same two men believe themselves to be one way, though they are perceived by others quite differently. Lastly, we learn in watching the play that valuing things by how much they appear to be, not how much they truly are worth gives a false representation of the truth. On the whole, Shakespeare's King Lear is making a statement about appearances and realities; specifically, you can't accept things at face value, you must search for deeper truths and avoid deceit.
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