Importance of Self Knowledge and Forgiveness in King Lear Essay

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The importance of self-knowledge and forgiveness is strikingly obvious in the play King Lear. If we accept that the two characters most lacking in self-knowledge are Lear and Gloucester, we can examine how the importance of this quality for them is shown in the play. Whilst these two characters lack self-knowledge, the world around them quickly deteriorates. As a result of their lack of insight, evil is given space to breed and take over, and Lear and Gloucester are forced to suffer as “love cools, friendship falls off and cities divide.” Due to Lear’s palpable mistake in measuring the love of his daughters, he banishes the only child who truly loves him and seals his fate for the remainder of the play. Likewise, Gloucester is deceived by…show more content…
While exposed to the wind and rain, Lear realises the thunder will not “peace at my bidding”, and therefore realises he is not divine. Out on the heath, “bareheaded”, he cannot hide from his emotions and his mind. Indeed, his great mind begins to break as he contemplates his daughters’ “ingratitude”, the hypocrisy of state and justice, and the suffering of others. It is only when he finally realises his culpability in all of this that he turns the corner to self-knowledge. However, this change does not come easily. The storm scene is one of the most striking scenes in the entire play. The audience can only watch in awe as the once imposing Lear madly rages against the storm, demanding it to “crack nature’s moulds” and spill all seeds “that make ingrateful man!” The image of Lear shouting up at the skies, willing them to destroy mankind is unforgettable. As Lear journeys through the violent storm, he also journeys through his own deep despair. The storm is the physical representation of Lear’s suffering, and so its intensity shows the absolute necessity of self-knowledge for Lear. It is only as he gains this knowledge that the storm subsides and Lear can seek shelter in the haven, and also seek shelter from his own turmoil. The change that overcomes Lear is striking. Armed with a new self-knowledge and understanding, he shows compassion for
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