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A Consideration Of The Way Shakespeare Presents And Develops The Theme Of Blindness In King Lear

2328 words - 9 pages

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


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

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 analysis we can see that Albany’s
inaction and lack of foresight are necessary to the plot. Albany’s
integrity, and naïve character creates a parallel to the
uncompassionate, repugnant Cornwall. Unlike Albany, Cornwall has great
insight into other characters and uses this to his advantage by
manipulating and deceiving others. Cornwall however is morally blind,
and unable to see the wrong of his actions. The outcome of Cornwall’s
blindness is his death, his own servant turns on him, just as he
turned on his host and his king. Shakespeare illustrates poetic
justice, in the downfall of Cornwall. To counterbalance Cornwall’s
corruption, Albany grows in moral strength and gains awareness of
justice and virtue.

Like Albany, Edgar’s character develops throughout the play, he must
suffer as Tom O Bedlam to truly understand Edmond’s trickery and more
importantly himself. He reverts into a state of oblivion, and denies
himself personality, money, food, and his position in society. From
this state of nothingness, he builds his character, and so is no
longer blind to himself, therefore can more easily start to understand
the intentions of those around him. Edgar...

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