In Shakespeare’s play, King Lear, we see the contrast between the characters King Lear and Gloucester, explored through several key themes. The contrast between characters is explored through the betrayal of their children, the love of their children and blindness of reality. In the way that these 2 characters must face the difficult situations that are dealt to them, King Lear is in every confrontation a fighter, and desperate to have the last word, where as Gloucester is more of a peace keeper and negotiator.
At different points of the play king Lear and Gloucester are betrayed by their children. Gloucester is betrayed by his illegitimate evil son Edmund, who seeks revenge and recognition. King Lear is betrayed by his 2 daughters, Goneril and Regan, and rashly banished the only daughter, Cordelia who truly loves him. Cordelia loves her father so much that she will never say something just to please him, or to gain land or title, “Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave my heart into my mouth”. Unlike her 2 evil sisters who say what King Lear wants to hear, Cordelia displays integrity above all else.
Edmund seeks to be the heir of Gloucester’s throne but he can not do this if Edgar, his legitimate brother is in the way. King Lear and Gloucester both have children who love them even though they treat them wrongly, and children who deceive and plot against them. Lear banishes his daughter Cordelia, but it turns out that she is the only daughter who loves him. Gloucester in turn, sides with the son who is plotting against him, and puts a price on the head of his legitimate son, Edgar.
Gloucester and Lear both disown their children, but in the end come to see through their blindness and love their children. The blindness of Gloucester and King Lear is a key contrast in the play. Lear and Gloucester and both subject to blindness which ultimately is the main perpetrator of their downfall. Gloucester sits uneasily on his throne, and is quick to believe that Edgar would plot against him, for his throne. King Lear, similarly is blind to the false declaration of love from Goneril and Regan, and rewards them for it.
Gloucester and King Lear both misjudge their children, because of which one goes blind and one loses his sanity. Also the way in which Gloucester and King Lear deal with situations is very contrasting. King Lear is a fighter, and falls into uncontrollable fits of rage when people anger him, such as his daughters. Whereas, the calm and reasonable Gloucester prefers a more diplomatic approach, and talks things over in a logical manner. Gloucester never falls into a rage and make rash decisions as King Lear does throughout the play.