King Lear By William Shakespeare Character Analysis Earl of Gloucester

Gloucester is depicted as a foolish old man, whose inability to see through Edmund's lies parallels Lear's own difficulties. By mistaking Edmund's motives, Gloucester is blind to the events occurring around him, even before Cornwall gouges out his eyes. Clearly, he is not intuitive or quick enough to understand the plotting or undercurrents present around him. Gloucester blames events on the stars, and thus, he absolves himself of any responsibility for his actions.

Later, Gloucester is willing to sacrifice his own life for the king. This heroic behavior sets Gloucester apart from his youngest son, Edmund, who is merely an opportunist. Like Lear, Gloucester feels despair and questions a god, and like Lear, Gloucester finds his humanity in the midst of his tragedy. The blinded old man who asks that clothing be brought, so that Bedlam Tom might be covered, is a very different man from the Gloucester of Act I, who in the play's opening scene, bragged of the good sport to be had at Edmund's conception. Instead of a thoughtless braggart, Gloucester is filled with compassion for Poor Tom. This compassion for his fellow man indicates that Gloucester regrets the behavior of his past, as he seeks to make amends by sharing with those he never noticed before the recent events.

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