Shakespeare's King Lear is known as one of his greatest tragedies. The story is full of misfortune, deception and death. The story also contains two plots, a main plot with King Lear, and a subplot with a character referred to as Gloucester. The main plot and subplot in King Lear may have minor differences but the two main characters of each plot share the same fundamental theme of blindness.
The theme of a story is the main subject or idea the author is trying to get across. In King Lear there are quite a few themes. Some of these are easy to come across and others you have to search for while truly understanding Shakespeare's words. When comparing and contrasting the plots, the same themes occur on both sides of the story. One of these themes is blindness. It is important to comprehend what Shakespeare has meant by using this word. Throughout the story there are literal and metaphorical forms of blindness impacting the characters. Thematically, blindness refers the obliviousness or the unaware outlook the two fathers have on the things going on around them.
We can start with King Lear himself and analyze his disability to see the authenticity in his daughters. This disability evidently arises when King Lear decides to split his land between his three children. Before he divvies up the land, each daughter is asked pronounce their love for their father in front of the other dinner guests. Any sensible person can see that the idea of forcing a loved one to share their feelings for you, in order to receive a piece of land is…not a good idea. King Lear though, has no sense of what could possibly come from pinning his daughters against each other. He continues to be unaware as his daughters, Goneril and Regan, lie with exaggeration about how much they love him. An outside perspective can easily pull forward the amplification that occurs in both of their monologues. Goneril's monologue is a great, first example.
Sir, I do love you more than words can wield the matter,
Dearer than eyesight, space, and liberty,
Beyond what can be valued, rich or rare,
No less than life, with grace, health, beauty, honor,
As much as child e'er loved or father found—
A love that makes breath poor and speech unable.
Beyond all manner of so much I love you.
In translation, Goneril is claiming that she loves her father has much as life itself and the things it contains such as beauty, liberty, honour and even eyesight. Such an unhealthy description of love towards another human being should be either alarming or ridiculous but we find Lear eating up her words like chocolate. The same thing occurs in Regan's minor monologue.
"Sir, I am made of that self mettle as my sister,
And prize me at her worth. In my true heart,
I find she names my very deed of love—
Only she comes too short, that I profess
Myself an enemy to all other joys,
Which the most precious square of sense possesses.
And find I am alone felicitate
In your dear highness' love.