Gloucester acts as a foil to Lear. This means that he acts as a mirror to the main character, whose traits are then highlighted for dramatic purposes. In structural terms, there are great similarities between the two men and their respective fates. Both come to grief through a naive trust in their children; both suffer appalling pain: mentally in the case of Lear and physically and mentally in the case of Gloucester; both realize, all too late, which family member is the one who actually loved and cared for them.
Yet, there are important differences between the plot and the subplot. Gloucester's suffering is more recognizably human than the mental anguish endured by Lear. Lear remains a larger-than-life character throughout the play; he may have renounced his kingdom, but he still acts and feels like a king. His lapse into insanity stems largely from his inability to come to terms with his humiliating status as a king without a throne.
Gloucester is more human and less exciting as a...
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