King Lear and the Earl of Gloucester are similar in numerous ways. They both fall from high positions in old age and bewail their fate. They both have children who betray them and other children whose loyalty they fail to appreciate. They both, in true Aristotelian fashion, come to know themselves and the world better through suffering. Finally, and perhaps least frequently noted, they are both largely the authors of their own misfortune through their cruel, arrogant treatment of the children who are at least partially justified in abandoning them.
This last point is emphasized at the very beginning of the play by the juxtaposition of Gloucester's mistreatment of Edmund with Lear's grotesque behavior towards all his daughters. Kent politely notices Edmund's existence, whereupon Gloucester says that he has "often blushed to acknowledge" his illegitimate son. He then crudely jokes about Edmund's mother and brusquely concludes:
He hath been out nine years, and away he shall again.
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