The Theme of Sight in King Lear

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Stephanie Manova
3R, King Lear Essay
In Shakespeare’s King Lear, emotional sight is not dependent on physical sight, for many characters are blinded by their own egos and ambitions to see the actual truth. Shakespeare even goes as far as inserting a literal metaphor for sight by making Gloucester finally realize the truth, only when his physical vision is removed. Although this example is most obvious, the theme reoccurs throughout the play. It is not until Lear’s prestige is taken away from him that he can truly see. Lear’s blunder into honest insanity is the perfect storm to start decaying the walls of Lear’s hubris and lack of insight. However, the King is not the only one blinded by his pride. His two haughty daughters, Goneril and Regan, are chasing after a similarly snobby earl, Edmund. Each member of this power driven trio leads themselves to their own inevitable endings, all because of their inability to communicate honestly with one another due to their conceded ambition to get ahead. King Lear’s lack of insight can be perceived as his mental state of “blindness”. Because of Lear’s high position in society, he is expected to be able to distinguish the good from the bad; unfortunately, his lack of sight beyond himself prevents him from doing so. Lear’s first act of blindness came at the beginning of the play. First, he was easily deceived by his two eldest daughters’ lies, then, he was unable to see the reality of Cordelia’s true love for him, and as a result, banished her from his kingdom along with his faithful servant Kent. He later cannot even recognize Kent when Kent approaches him in a simple disguise, proving his profound lack of vision. As the play progresses, King Lear finally finds his philosophical glasses and sees that his two lovely daughters are nothing but manipulative liars taking advantage of his cluelessness. With his 20/20 vision of truth now intact, Lear clearly sees Cordelia’s love for what it always was. Unfortunately for...
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