madness or blindness is there a difference





King Lear and Gloucester are the two older characters that endure the most in the play King Lear by William Shakespeare. Throughout the play their stories foreshadow the events that will occur in the other’s life. However, while Gloucester goes blind, Lear goes mad. In doing this Shakespeare is indicating congruence between the two conditions. Only after they lose their faculties can Lear and Gloucester recognize that their blindness to honesty had cost them dearly.
In the beginning of the play the audience can already tell Lear is going mad because of the things he requests and the way he acts. Because Lear had begun to act foolish he seemed senile. However, he is compelled into total madness after both his daughters refuse to treat him with the respect he deserves, and cast him out of their lives.
Lear begins to realize once he has gone mad that Cordelia is the daughter that truly loves him, and Goneril as well as Regan are deceitful. The first real signs that are given to us that Lear is going mad are in Act I, Scene 5, when Lear joins in with the Fool’s nonsense. In those same lines Lear utters, “I did her wrong.” This means Lear did Cordelia wrong in exiling her. However, Lear fluctuates between sanity and madness throughout Acts I-II, and in Act II. Scene II he leaves Gloucester’s castle and is pushed into insanity for some time. Once Lear has been thrust into the storm he can see people as the audience can, and not in the blurred images as before. Lear yells,
Nor rain, wind, thunder, fire are my daughters;
I tax not you, you elements, with unkindness
I never gave you kingdom, called you children;
You owe me no subscription. (Act 3, Scene 2, 15-18)
Although Lear is mad, he is now seeing what is true. He can see that his daughters have wronged him, although he gave them his kingdom. Lear is screaming this to the storm and he does not blame the storm for coming down on him because he never gave the storm his kingdom or called it his child; therefore, it does not owe Lear anything. Lear perceives that he gave Goneril and Regan nearly everything he possessed, and his daughters would not even treat him like a person (Oates). Says Joyce Oates in her essay,” Is This The Promised End?”.
There is a difference between foolishness and insanity. Foolishness is when Lear turned his kingdom over to his deceitful daughters. Insanity is hallucinating, and being unable to function safely and normally. Lear meets this definition in the last scene, when he imagines Cordelia is still alive. Being torn apart with so much emotion was not normal for Lear. He was a strong king but did not show emotion often. He was insane.
Lear strips himself of his title and comes to terms with the fact that he is no longer king. After he recognizes this he shows more respect to the men with him. Until that point, Lear was almost obsessed with retaining the title of king. When he abdicates his title on his own he becomes a different Lear. He says to the fool, “Come on, my boy. How dost my boy? Art cold?” before they enter the hovel. This is the first instance in the storm that Lear notices that other people are suffering in the storm as well (Friedlander). In Act 4, Scene 6, Lear is shouting
They flattered
Me like a dog and told me I had the white hairs in my
Beard ere the black ones were there.
(Act 4, Scene 6, 16-18)
Lear could not see that his daughters were flattering him with lies in the beginning of the play. Lear says he was like a dog to his daughters, and in some ways that is true. A pet is often kept until the owner loses interest in it. These women have the only thing that had interested them in Lear, his kingdom, and now they had not other reason to take care of him. He is also angry at how his two daughters told him he was wise, although he was not yet. He sees that he was not wise in giving them the