Sight and Blindness in King Lear
In King Lear, the recurring images of sight and blindness associated with the characters of Lear and Gloucester illustrate the theme of self-knowledge and consciousness that exist in the play. These classic tropes are inverted in King Lear, producing a situation in which those with healthy eyes are ignorant of what is going on around them, and those without vision appear to "see" the clearest. While Lear's "blindness" is one which is metaphorical, the blindness of Gloucester, who carries the parallel plot of the play, is literal. Nevertheless, both characters suffer from an inability to see the true nature of their children, an ability only gained once the two patriarchs have plummeted to the utter depths of depravity. Through a close reading of the text, I will argue that Shakespeare employs the plot of Gloucester to explicate Lear's plot, and, in effect, contextualizes Lear's metaphorical blindness with Gloucester's physical loss of vision.
King Lear: The Theme of Blindness (Lack of Insight) In Shakespeare's classic tragedy, King Lear, the issue of sight and its relevance to clear vision is a recurring theme. Shakespeare's principal means of portraying this theme is through the characters of Lear and Gloucester. Although Lear can physically see, he is blind in the sense that he lacks insight, understanding, and direction. In contrast, Gloucester becomes physically blind but gains the type of vision that Lear lacks. It is evident from these two characters that clear vision is not derived solely from physical sight. Lear's failure to understand this is the principal cause of his demise, while Gloucester learns to achieve clear vision, and consequently avoids a fate similar to Lear's. Throughout most of King Lear, Lear's vision is clouded by his lack of insight. Since he cannot see into other people's characters, he can never identify them for who they truly are. When Cordelia angers Lear, Kent tries to reason with Lear, who is too stubborn to remain open-minded. Lear responds to Kent's opposition with,...
Sight and Consciousness in King Lear
The images of sight given, taken, or abused resonate deeply in King Lear from Kent's first imperative, "See better, Lear" (I.i.158), to the painful images of a stumbling, eyeless Gloucester. Such imagery, drawn both dramatically and verbally, illustrates well the theme of consciousness. Consciousness in this play refers to seeing the world without through the lens of the world within. The success of King Lear as a satisfying tragedy relies on this issue of consciousness. This theme is most potently manifest in the play through the classic inversion of sight and blindness: paradoxically, those with healthy and normal eyes see both a self and world distorted while only those who have been robbed of their sight physically, like Gloucester, or metaphorically, like Lear, can apprehend their truer nature. In the play's initial scenes we behold Lear as a vain old man, motivated by a desire for necessary dependents while refusing to yield his own independence. Two of his
Comparing Lear and Gloucester in Shakespeare's King Lear
In Shakespeare's classic tragedy, King Lear, there are several characters who do not see the reality of their environment. Two such characters are Lear and Gloucester. Both characters inhabit a blindness to the world around them. Lear does not see clearly the truth of his daughters mentions, while Gloucester is also blinded by Edmond's treachery. This failure to see reality leads to Lears intellectual blindness, which is his insanity, and Gloucester's physical blindness that leads to his trusting tendencies. They both achieve inner awareness at the end as their surreal blindness' are lifted and then realize the truth. Both Lear and Gloucester are characters used by Shakespeare to show the relevance of having a clear vision in life. Lear's vision is marred by lack of direction in life, poor foresight and his inability to...
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