A Consideration of the Way Shakespeare Presents and Develops the Theme of Blindness in King Lear

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A Consideration of the Way Shakespeare Presents and Develops the Theme of Blindness in King Lear Introduction ============ Throughout ‘King Lear’, Shakespeare uses the play’s characters to make judgements on society using blindness as a metaphor that runs through the play. He does this in a number of ways portraying characters that can be fooled by others’ flattery, or are easily manipulated or deceived, or simply have a lack of wisdom. As well as the horrific physical blinding of Gloucester, blindness is used as a metaphor for characters’ lack of insight, moral blindness, and a lack of perception into other’s needs and interests. Shakespeare illustrates the importance of seeing yourself and the world around you clearly. Shakespeare shows how seeing clearly is linked to an understanding of what the world is really like. As in many of Shakespeare’s plays, ‘King Lear’ is used to highlight the hypocrisy of social order, whether it is the royal court, the legal system, or simply the family structure. Blindness as a metaphor for lack of self-knowledge ================================================== The most severe form of blindness addressed in the play, is blindness to oneself. In the case of Albany he is blinded by his own emotions. His feelings toward Gonerill cloud his judgement, thus he is blind not only to himself, but to the true intentions of Gonerill. However unlike most of the other characters, by the end of the play Albany has gained awareness and recognizes his wife’s inhumanity. On the surface the audience may assume that Albany’s blindness is due to his simple heart and goodness, but on deeper analysi... ... middle of paper ... ... characters in the play he ‘stands for’ a type or role within the society Shakespeare has created. Kent is representative of the hierarchy that Lear destroyed when he gave away his power, Kent is an anachronism. The audience views Kent as a positive figure, and can trust him, because of his sound advice and judgement. He is one of the few characters in the play who are able to see clearly, and see Lear for the misguided fool he is. Kent tries to warn him of his folly, saying, ‘see better Lear’, and he begs him to remain, ‘The true blank of thin eye’. In this ‘blank’ refers to the white centre of a target, of which the concentric rings bear a resemblance to the pupil of an eye. By making a comparison between Lear’s sight and a target, Shakespeare is communicating the inevitability of Lear’s death at the end of the play.

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