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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 predict the consequences of his actions. He cannot look far enough into the future to see the consequences of his actions.
This, in addition to his lack of insight into other people, condemns his relationship with his most beloved daughter, Cordelia. When Lear asks his daughters, who loves him most, he already thinks that Cordelia has the most love for him. However, when Cordelia says: “I love your Majesty according to my bond, no more nor less. ” (I, i, 94-95) Lear cannot see what these words really mean. Goneril and Regan are only putting on an act. They do not truly love Lear as much as th… Shakespeare uses subplots to dramatize the action of the play and give spark on the contrast for the themes in King Lear.
Sub plots usually improve the effect of dramatic irony and suspense. The latter, which is used in King Lear, gives us the understanding of the emotions of the characters in the play. This follows the parallelism between Gloucester and King Lear. In King Lear, the subplot of Gloucester corresponds to the major plot of King Lear. Both fathers have their own loyal legitimate child and their evil and disloyal child. They are both honourable men, who have children that return to them in their time of need. Gloucester and Lear are both tormented, and their favoured child recovers their life.
In the early beginning of the play, Cordelia says that her love for her father is the love between father and daughter, no more, no less. Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave My heart into my mouth. I love your Majesty According to my bond, no more nor less. (Act 1 Scene 1 Pg. 13 lines 93-95) In response, King Lear goes into rage, and divides Cordelia’s share of the kingdom between her two unworthy sisters. Such injustice is encountered by Gloucester in the subplot. O villain, villain! His very opinion in the letter! Abhorred villain! Unnatural, detested, brutish villain! Worse than brutish! Go, sirrah, seek him. I’ll apprehend him.
Abominable villain! Where is he? (Act 1 Scene 2 Pg. 37 lines 75-78) Gloucester fooled by his bastard son Edmund, attacks Edgar and leaves Edmund to his evil plans. Shakesperean plays such as King Lear, illustrate the theme of good vs evil. Gloucester’s death in the subplot is a parallel to that of King Lear’s in the main plot. Though Gloucester does not have the tragic catastrophic death of King Lear. King Lear’s anguish led him to insanity while Gloucester is led to despair and attempts suicide. Before Gloucester’s attempt at suicide, he realizes that he has wronged Edgar and condemns his blindness of Edmund’s…
William Shakespeare’s King Lear is a dramatic play that displays many relationships between different characters. King Lear, himself, and Gloucester can be seen as two parallel characters with the same mentality, while at the same time be looked upon with differences. These two characters seem to be walking down the same path unknowingly, but in the end, Gloucester becomes truly blind to the world, and King Lear begins to take in reality as it is. The relationships between King Lear and Gloucester will be the central topic of this paper.
Gloucester’s character undergoes more of a physical change as he discovers truth; Lear goes though more of a psychological change, from fantasy to reality, and from insanity to sanity. Both men are obviously not mentally stable. Lear lets his ungrateful daughters take over his kingdom and treat him like a piece of dirt because he thinks they love him. Lear banishes his favorite daughter on account of her response to his question of love, and Gloucester gives his estate to his bastard son, Edmund, because of a forged letter from his favorite son “Edgar”.
King Lear has a few fits that make people question his sanity, while Gloucester blames the kingdom’s troubles on superstitious things like eclipses. Another similarity between the two characters is their blindness of deceit from their children. The two men, in addition, seem to both be old and senile. Like Gloucester, Lear is blind to all the evils of his life and his surroundings until it is far too late. The overall story is how Lear acquired better vision, as from when Kent told him, “see, better, Lear”. When Gloucester has his eyes picked out, King Lear begins to face reality.
King Lear and Gloucester, on the contrary, can, too, be seen as opposites. For both Lear and Gloucester, affliction brings insight, more valuable than sight. Gloucester is also deceived by his fraudulent, bastard son into thinking that Edgar wants him dead, when in fact, in both cases, it is the exact opposite. Both of these characters display parallel similarities; however, Gloucester and King Lear are noted contradictory characters in the sense that they both ultimately experience different life changes at the end of the play. Gloucester possess an unruly impulse in making very rash and important decisions involving their children.
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Gloucester’s physical blindness symbolizes the metaphorical blindness that grips both Gloucester and the play’s other father figure, Lear. The parallels between the two men are clear: both have loyal children and disloyal children, both are blind to the truth, and both end up banishing the loyal children and making the wicked one(s) their heir(s). Only when Gloucester has lost the use of his eyes and Lear has gone mad does each realize his tremendous error. It is appropriate that the play brings them together near Dover in Act 4 to commiserate about how their blindness to the truth about their children has cost them dearly.
Author: Brandon Johnson
Sight and Blindness in King Lear
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King Lear: Examination Between Sight And Blindness
An Examination of the Inverse Tropes of 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.
When the audience is first introduced to Lear, he is portrayed as a raging, vain old man who can not see the purity of his daughter Cordelia's love for him from the insincerity of her sisters Goneril and Regan. In his fiery rage after disowning Cordelia, Lear commands to Kent, "Out of my sight!" (1.1.156). Kent fittingly implores the aging king to "See better, Lear; and let me still remain / The true blank of thine eye" (1.1.157-8). Kent recognizes love in its most noble form in the person of Cordelia, and is able to see through the hypocrisy of Lear's other two daughters. In beseeching Lear to "[s]ee better," Kent is, in effect, asking Lear to look beyond his vanity and inward pride to see the honesty of Cordelia, who refuses to put her love for her father on show.
From the very first act of the play, then, Shakespeare has set up the theme of consciousness, using the metaphor of sight. Kent's imperative to "see better" is prompting Lear not to use his faculty of vision, but, metaphorically, to become conscious of what is going on around him; to see the world as it truly is. It is fascinating that, upon Kent's imperative, Lear swears, "Now, by Apollo-" (1.1.159). As Apollo is the god of the sun whose maxim is to "know thyself," it is particularly telling that Lear is invoking the god associated with sharpness of vision and light, when he, himself, remains unenlightened. The unrelenting Kent, recognizes Lear's blindness as well as the futility of invoking the god of self-knowledge, and, despite the king's growing anger, declares, "Thou swear'st thy gods in vain" (1.1.161).
The theme of consciousness is underscored by the Gloucester plot in...
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