"As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods."  Please give background to this quote in King Lear.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Gloucester speaks this line in Shakespeare's King Lear.  It is a fairly profound line in a drama that is filled with many of them.  The sum total of the line represents the relationship between individuals and the gods.  It reveals how the forces of fate and predestination can be cruel, and how individuals have little say, if any, about it.  In the end, the statement reflects the futility of human freedom in the face of overwhelming odds and contexts.  Gloucester says these lines after revelation about many elements. He understands his own folly, in supporting one son over another, and grasps his own poor decision making, in believing the good one was bad and the bad one was good.  He speaks from a position of having been blinded physically, but possessing a restored sense of sight subjectively.  In the end, the comparison of human beings to flies and the gods as impetuous, young boys helps to bring out the dynamic of a world order where there is little structure or guidance.  There is only a condition of servitude and lack of justice which governs it.