King Lear, one of William Shakespeare’s most important plays, is a tragic tale evolving around conflict and personal transformation. The story depicts the tragedy of a king who alienates his only devoted daughter, and then realizes the evil character of his other two daughters. The famous play opens with a famous quote: “’Tis the times’ plague when madmen lead the blind.”
By looking at the famous quotation in King Lear, we can see how perfectly the words find their equivalent in today’s political environment in Turkey. Who are the blind people today? Who are the madmen? And thus, what is the treachery behind the scenario?
Let us figure out the “blinds,” the blindness that seems to be occupying society. Isn’t it, after all, blindness that is the most disastrous illness of society? As more and more Turkish journalists and intellectuals are occupying prisons because of accusations that they formed a “deep state,” who are the blinds that refuse to investigate this in their daily newspapers or columns? As such, who are the blinds that bury their heads in the ground when “specially authorized courts” are formed to sentence people like a sledgehammer, despite the lack of evidence? Or, what was the degree of blindness when the educational system was corrupted inside out by reducing primary education to only four years?
It is as easy to categorize the “madmen” as it is to categorize “the blind.” These are the people who polarize society into “religious” or “non-religious,” “ethnic” or “unitary,” “liberal” or “nationalist,” pro-Ataturk or anti-Ataturk.
King Lear utters the famous quote as Gloucester wants to kiss his hand: “Let me wipe first; it smells mortality,” he says. As he unfortunately realizes the evil character of his daughters, he finds out that he has lost the chance to protect his only “good-hearted” daughter, Cordelia. As the play moves on, one can not help but think: what would be the miracle that could make society realize the blindness it is led to? Would it have a chance to wipe its hands and move on to form a better society and get rid of the system that tries to push us to war?
By looking at the famous quotation in King Lear, we can see how perfectly the words find their equivalent in today’s political environment in Turkey.
Toward the end of the play, Gloucester’s words – as the voice of the writer – describe the concern and the uneasiness that one feels nowadays:
“We have seen the best of our time: machinations, hollowness, treachery and all ruinous disorders, follow us disquietly to our graves.”