King Lear

Lear and Gloucester: Uncovering Their Tainted World

Through experience and suffering, one tightens one's grasp on reality. In William Shakespeare's King Lear, the characters' impressions of their society change as their status changes. Lear's and Gloucester's views of their once perfect society is forever tainted when they see the corruption and deception that is going on around them. King Lear becomes a victim of corruption when all of his power and status is slowly stripped away from him by his two eldest daughters, Goneril and Regan. Gloucester also witnesses the deceptiveness of his world when his bastard son, Edmund, betrays him and robs him of his possessions. It is only after their downfall that they discover how corrupt and deceptive the social structure is.

Lear realizes that he is flawed by the corrupted society. He answers, "Let me wipe it first; it smells of mortality" (IV.vi.132) when Gloucester asks to kiss his hand and show him respect. Lear acknowledges that his hand smells, and cleans it. The fact that he "wipe[s]" it shows that the smell is a bad thing and it is not something that he is proud of having. The "smell" might be an appalling odor that he has acquired on the outside, or it might be something...

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