The Theme of Kindness and Its Loss in Shakespeare's King Lear
Within the world, kindness is a symbol of love and compassion. The values and thoughts individuals may have might differ and contrast with another, but the feeling and joy of bringing kindness into one’s heart is an undeniable sensation that can be appreciated by all around the world. When one is stripped or denied these feelings of kindness it can cause one to change for the worst and become an entirely different person with different moral standards. In William Shakespeare’s play King Lear, Shakespeare develops the idea that kindness can produce a journey of life that is not so bright and joyful. Through the events that happen to Gloucester, mental state, emotional instability and out views of the world alter dramatically and shifting Gloucester into a completely transformed character. Without sons, or outward vision, Gloucester is left with nothing and thus, it sent into a downward spiral of depression that changes his mentality and mental state forever. The kindness and sympathy that Gloucester once had are now gone, forever loss. The loss that was caused by the compassion Gloucester gave to others. Now distorted by sinful acts triggered by others, Gloucester is left to die by the ones he treated with concern and regard.
After embarrassing Edmund, his illegitimate son, in front of Kent a nobleman, Gloucester is a man free of sin and enjoys the liberty of life. Everything is right in the world and Gloucester has no anxiety or fear about anything in his life. However, that is when Edmund precedes to hand Gloucester a letter that seems to have been written by Edgar, his legitimate son, stating his desire to murder his father and reap the benefits it sows Gloucester is absolutely horrified and shocked that his beloved son can write such a nasty letter and commit such treason against him. In Gloucester’s line “Abhorred villain! Unnatural, detested, brutish villain! Worse than brutish! -Go, Sirrah, seek him.” (I.ii.80-81) Gloucester is beyond anger that the son he loves the most and cherishes more than the other is planning to kill him. Gloucester has not been kind or loving towards Edmund his legitimate son and has always treated Edmund with the kindness and respect a true son deserves. Gloucester is enraged and irritated by how someone he loved and cared for, only wants his fortune and power. He is now somewhat unfamiliar to a person he once thought as his one and only son. With the betrayal of his son, it is a wakeup call that kindness leads to nothing. That Gloucester being kind and loyal to not only himself but to others, he believed, to be honest, causes him down a dark path. A destiny that induces Gloucester to question his own existence and lower his self-worth.
After realizing that his legitimate son is a traitor, Gloucester continuing to hunt him down to capture Edmund and hold him in prison for treason. Edmund was the one who created the letter and falsely blames his brother for writing the letter and planning to kill Gloucester. Edgar and Gloucester are mere pawns in Edmund’s big plan to the throne. Gloucester blinded by his own trust and kindness to Edmund, wholeheartedly trusting Edmund, with no doubt or suspicion. Gloucester faces the reality that he is naive, that he has no one he can trust and the world he once knew is now a loss. Kindness bought Gloucester into a world of darkness. Trusting his son Edmund, escorting him to a journey of misery. Gloucester’s statement of “O my follies! Then Edgar was abused. Kind gods forgive me that and prosper him.” (III.vii.111-112) Gloucester has now realized that his trust in Edmund and the kindness he has given him was all a lie. Gloucester was manipulated and tricked by Edmund, creating a dramatic shift in Gloucester’s character. No longer able to see after having his eyes gouged out of his sockets. Gloucester can recognize the truth. That the goodness Gloucester has given all his loved ones was all for nothing. He was controlled and exploit by others and was unable to rule his own destiny. Gloucester was left dangling on strings of a puppeteer, left to rot and deteriorate like an old man. The goodness and virtue of Gloucester that he holds dear to his heart, are now lost, caused by those around him that took advantage and used Gloucester for their own selfish needs. With such extreme emotional suffering and grief Gloucester is permanently altered into a new person. A person that has lost the will to live, the resolute to strive for goodness, the passion to act kindly to others. He has turned into a man dissolved of all-purpose to determine his own destiny.
Throughout the play, the audience is witness to Gloucester’s depression and outward sadness of life as he struggles to find the will to live. Gloucester has lost the will to live and has given up on finding any hope of surviving this cruel world. Gloucester utters the words “As flies to wanton boys are we to the’ gods; They kill us for their sport.” (IV.i.41-42) as he wanders on the heath after being blinded by Cornwall and Regan. It is apparent that the profound despair that grips him and drives him to desire his own death has awakened and is fully aware of Gloucester’s mindset. All the emotional injustice that Gloucester faced has taken a tremendous toll on his mental state and Gloucester starts to realize there is no order in the world. The good are not rewarded with fortune and the guilty are not punished for their cruelty, there is no divine justice in the world. Gloucester begins to realize that goodness and kindness are nothing but, words and acts. The good die along with the wicked, goodness does not play a part in determining one’s destiny. Kindness does not cause one to live a happy life, there is no fairness in the world and man is not capable of imposing his own moral ideals upon the harsh realities of life. Gloucester no longer cares for the world and understands that life offers no reason for his unbearable suffering, the gods merely toy with his life and Gloucester just must live on, enduring the pain. Gloucester has finally comprehended that kindness leads to nothing, only a trail of gloom.
The play King Lear shows that kindness produces nothing. Being good and acting just, leads to nothing, the world does not treat the good better than the bad. Life is unfair, and the kind suffers just as much if not worse than the guilty. One does not have control over their own destiny if one acts kind or is good and honest. Shakespeare shows the audience that life itself is meaningless, the gods need no explanation to punish or reward people, there is no justice in the world, and one must just survive and live. That is the world that everyone lives in today. Acting kind and being good inevitably leads to your demise. One has no control or command of their own destiny, the more they act kind and honest. Kindness leads to loss, a loss that drains your will to live, and stimulates your feeling of suicide. Life is meaningless and you become hopeless. No gods can save you, no people can help you. Kindness leads to nothing.
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