The Theme of Blindness in King Lear
In the tragedy King Lear, the term blindness has an entirely different meaning. It is not a physical flaw, but the inability of the characters to see a person for whom they truly are. They can only read what is presented to them on the surface. King Lear, Gloucester and Albany are three prime examples characters who suffered most by having this flaw.
Lear was by far the blindest of the three. Because Lear was the King, one would expect him to have superb reasoning skills, but his lack of insight kept him from making wise choices. This is the flaw that led to his downfall.
Lear's first big mistake was letting himself be fooled by Regan and Goneril, and giving them his throne. For they did not love him at all, he could not understand the depth of Cordelia's love for him. He banished her from the kingdom without one thought to what she had said. Lear's last words to the only daughter that truly loved him were;
".....for we/ have no such daughter, nor shall we ever see/ that face of hers again. Therefore be gone/ without our grace, our love, our benison." (Shakespeare 1, 1. 262-265)
Lear's blindness also caused him to banish Kent, one of his most loyal followers. Kent tried to stand up to Lear in Cordelia's honor, but Lear would not listen to what Kent was trying to tell him. To Kent's opposition; "This hideous rashness, answer my life, my judgement,/ Thy youngest daughter does not love thee least;" ( 1,1. 150-151) Lear responded with, "Kent on thy life, no more." ( 1, 1, 154) "Out of my sight!" ( 1, 1. 157) This is a good example of Lear's lack of insight. He was being too stubborn to see that Kent was only trying to do what was best for Lear.
After Kent had been banished, he continued to serve Lear, by wearing a disguise. Because of Lear's lack of sight he could not see through the costume. As the play progressed Lear's sanity went downhill, but his vision became clearer. When Goneril and Regan would not provide him with shelter during a furious storm, Lear realized that they were the daughters who did not love him. He also began to understand the words of Cordelia from the beginning of the play, he realized that she loved him too much to put into words.
When Lear and Cordelia finally reunited near the end of the play, Lear expressed his sorrow for what he had done. "You must bear with me, I pray you now, forget and forgive:/ I am old an foolish." ( 4, 7. 82 ) But it was too late, Lear's rashness and inability to see clearly had already cost him, and Cordelia their lives.
Lear was not the only character to suffer from blindness,...