Expectations and Blindness in King Lear

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Topics: Blindness, King Lear
Shakespeare, with his brilliant portrayal of Lear's conflict with two opposing forces: aesthetics and reality, continues to draw both readers and audiences with Lear's many meanings and interpretations. The main character, King Lear, is the object of universal identification with his obliviousness as to who people truly are, and the discovery of truth. It is this identification that exceeds the Elizabethan period, making King Lear a play for all times. With his world about to be shattered, Lear will realize that the world he was living in as King, is not so nice as it seems. King Lear is the story of how a man “once obsessed with image and power”(Hamilton 175) is forced to see that those around him are not who he believes they are. The issue of vision and insight, and the absence of it, is a major theme in Lear. This theme is portrayed through the characters of King Lear, Gloucester and Edgar. The lack of insight, or “blindness”, is very symbolic. Blindness is defined as “unable to see; lacking the sense of sight;”(Dictionary). For Lear, blindness was not physical; it was his flaw. Lear's blindness to see who a person really was, based on their character and personality, was obvious at the beginning of the play regarding Cordelia and Kent. Gloucester, on the other hand, was originally blind because he also had a flaw against seeing the truth. He is physically blinded by Cornwall, but after he gains the vision that Lear lacks. Lear's understanding that vision is not only physical came too late, and is the cause of his downfall. Lear knows absolutely that he is not only a King, but the father of the family unit, the patriarchal figurehead. He believes these titles makes him better than everybody else, that everyone else bows to him. Because of this, he demands high levels of public affection, that he wholly expects to receive. Lear emphasizes his expectations at the start of the play, repeatedly referring to nature and “offices of nature”(2.4.194-202) to which

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