Seeing Through The Smoke and Mirrors

In class we’ve talked a little about the motif of sight and blindness. The meta-performance of the onion that is King Lear has a way of veiling motivations behind several layers of storytelling. We, as the audience, have the unique ability to peel back and examine each layer to understand the whole. The fundamental question is why are there so many layers, and what truth lies at the center?

The many narratives and manipulations aren’t pointless complications to confuse the audience. At first glance, the motivations to conceal true identity, intent, and such may seem like they come from a place of selfish want. We do see this in characters like Edmund, Goneril, and Regan. Their greed and lust for power, control, and legitimacy drive their performances. However, we find more noble characters such as Edgar or Kent staging performances, but doing so for the benefit of others. Therefore, we must rule out the purpose of these layers as purely a way to conceal bad faith actions. Instead, let us consider the possibility that these narrative layers best serve to draw us further into the story, expanding it and pulling us deeper and closer to its intended meaning.

Still, if there is one all-encompassing truth to the story of King Lear, I don’t know it. It seems a story with many layers must also contain many themes. To disregard all other meanings and choose one would be to rob the story of its complexity and Shakespeare’s craftsmanship. That said, one of the driving motifs in the story is finding sight in blindness, or reason in madness, which really isn’t much different. Gloucester only understands the truth about his sons after he has been blinded for his blindness. Likewise, through Lear’s madness his eyes are opened to poverty, justice and the lack of it, who actually loved and didn’t love him, and more. Witnessing these revelations should hopefully prime us as the audience to be willing to accept truths from where we least expect them. Our modern society is plagued with misinformation, false stories and manipulations, and much of it is spread with truly malicious intent. But in an age of misinformation, King Lear invites us to peel back these layers, to find reason in the madness, and hopefully to emerge a little wiser from it.

Power in Society

Everywhere you go, there is going to be an imbalance in power. This is the way society has been constructed from day one. Tensions are created between different ethnicity’s and genders based on individuals getting the false sense that they are somehow “better than others” based on them having more power. In the play, we see how the power Lear has is immense, but easily thrown away. His own daughter stole the throne from him and take it as theirs. Power causes a great divide, because people will often do anything the can to obtain it.

Power has only increased for the people that posses it as time has gone on. With technology being such a prominent facet in our everyday lives, the power you have can seem bigger than ever with the ability to reach countless people. Too often, however, power is used in the wrong way. Goneril and Regan loved the power Lear had more than him himself. Because of this, they stole the thrown from him. Being someone in power has its positives and negatives in society. Power can easily be abused, and those not in as much power could easily abuse the power of others. Needless to say, power creates a lot of issues in modern day society, and in King Lear.