Parental Blindness in King LearAs Shakespeare presents to us a tragic pattern of parental and filial love, in which a prosperous man is devested of power and finally recognises his “folly”, empathy is induced in the audience. In “King Lear”, it is noted from the beginning of the play that both Lear and Gloucester suffer from self-approbation and will consequently find revelation by enduring “the rack of this tough world”. While Lear mistakenly entrusts the shallow professions of love from his “thankless” daughters – Goneril and Regan – instead of the selfless words of Cordelia, Gloucester shadows a similar ignorance by initially entrusting love in the evil Edmund, rather than Edgar, whom we consider to be a “truly” loyal “noble gentlemen”.
Undeniably, both parents misjudge appearance for reality, as it is only in this way that they can “let the great gods that keep this dreadful pudder O’er [their] heads / Find out their enemies” where “all vengeance comes too short”. When Lear is rejected by Goneril and Regan and stripped of his “hundred Knights and squires”, he is left with “nothing” in the wilderness, besides the loyal company of Kent and the Fool, and later on, Edgar and Gloucester. It appears that at this stage he senses his “folly”, that he “did [Cordelia] wrong”. But Lear has yet to gain full insight. Although, before entering the hovel, he realises that he has been a “man more sinned against sinning”, the process of self-discovery is not complete until all truth is unveiled. As Lear realises his foolishness in bannishing Cordelia – his “joy” and the only daughter who truly loves him – we sense Lear’s increasing sorrow and despair. By revealling his “sin”, he is subjecting himself to punishment. Perhaps it is a deserving motion, since he had passed judgement and punished Kent and Cordelia for coming between “the dragon and his wrath”, that is, him and his power. Now the gods above rightfully control Lear’s destiny, abiding by the process that man has to suffer to gain peace.
At this particular moment, Lear is still unaware of Kent’s identity, disguised as Caius, ever since he bannished Kent for defending Cordeila’s thoughtful choice to “love and be silent”. We understand that the disguise is a way in which Kent can protect and continually serve the “poor, weak and infirm” Lear. Lear begins to accomplish understanding through the change in his contemptuous behaviour to a sympathetic learning man.