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 King Lear - Theme of Blindness

        In Shakespearean terms, blinds means a whole different thing. 

Blindness can normally be defined as the inability of the eye to see, 

but according  to Shakespeare, blindness is not a physical quality, 

but a mental flaw some people possess.  Shakespeare�s most dominant 

theme in his play King Lear is that of blindness.  King Lear, 

Gloucester, and Albany are three prime examples Shakespeare 

incorporates this theme into.  Each of these character�s blindness was 

the primary cause of the bad decisions they made; decisions which all 

of them would eventually come to regret.

        The blindest bat of all was undoubtedly King Lear.  Because of 

Lear�s high position in society, he was supposed to be able to 

distinguish the good from the bad; unfortunately, his lack of  sight 

prevented him to do so.  Lear�s first act of blindness came at the 

beginning of the play. First, he was easily deceived by his two eldest 

daughters� lies, then, he was unable to see the reality of Cordelia�s 

true love for him, and as a result, banished her from his kingdom with 

the following words:

�..................................for we

Have no such daughter, nor shall ever see

That face of her again.  Therefore be gone

Without our grace, our love, our benison.� 

(Act I, Sc I, Ln 265-267)

Lear�s blindness also caused him to banish one of his loyal followers, 

Kent.  Kent was able to see Cordelia�s true love for her father, and 

tried to protect her from her blind father�s irrationality.  After 

Kent was banished, he created a disguise for himself and was 

eventually hired by Lear as a servant.  Lear�s inability to determine 

his servant�s true identity proved once again how blind Lear actually 

was.  As the play progressed, Lear�s eyesight reached closer to 20/20 

vision.  He realized how wicked his two eldest daughters really were 

after they locked him out of the castle during a tremendous storm.  

More importantly, Lear saw through Cordelia�s lack of flatterings and 

realized that her love for him was so great that she couldn�t express 

it into words.  Unfortunately, Lear�s blindness ended up costing 

Cordelia her life and consequently the life of himself.

        Gloucester  was another example of a character who suffered 

from an awful case of blindness.  Gloucester�s blindness denied him of 

the ability to see the goodness of Edgar and the evil of Edmund.  

Although Edgar was the good and loving son, Gloucester all but 

disowned him.  He wanted to kill the son that would later save his 

life.  Gloucester�s blindness began when Edmund convinced him by the 

means of a forged letter that Edgar was plotting to kill him.  

Gloucester�s lack of sight caused him to believe Edmund was the good 

son and prevented him from pondering the idea of Edmund being after 

his earldom.  Near the end of the play, Gloucester finally regained 

his sight and realized that Edgar saved his life disguised as Poor Tom 

and loved him all along.  He realized that Edmund planned to take over 

the earldom and that he was the evil son of the two.  Gloucester�s 

famous line: �I stumbled when I saw� (Act IV, Sc I, Ln 20-21) was 

ironic.  His inability to see the realities of his sons occurred when 

he had his physical sight but was mentally blind; but his ability to 

see the true nature of his sons occurred after having his eyes plucked 

out by the Duke of Cornwall.  Fortunately, the consequences of 

Gloucester�s blindness throughout the play was minimal, after all, he 

was the only one to die as a result of his tragic flaw.  

        Albany was another character suffering from the classic case 

of blindness, but luckily for him, he survived his battle.  Albany�s 

case of blindness was purely a result of the love he had for Goneril. 

 Although he disapproved of Goneril�s actions, he would only mildly 

argue his case.  When Goneril forced Lear to reduce his army so that 

he could stay in their castle, Albany protested:

� I cannot be so partial, Goneril,

  To the great love I bear You -�

     (Act I, Sc IV, Ln 309-310)

Albany�s deep devotion to Goneril blinded him from the evil she 

possessed.   His inability to realize how greedy and mean Goneril was 

after she flattered Lear with a bunch of lies and then kicked him out 

of their home, just goes to show you how much Albany loved Goneril.  

Albany was also blind to the fact that Goneril was cheating on him and 

that she was plotting to kill him. Fortunately, Edgar came across a 

cure for Albany�s blindness.  A note outlining Goneril�s evil plans 

was all Albany needed to see.  Finally, Albany recognized what a devil 

he was married to and for once let out his emotions when he said:

�O Goneril,

You are not worth the dust which the rude wind

Blows in your face!�  

(Act IV, Sc II, Ln 29-31)

Unlike Lear and Gloucester, Albany didn�t suffer much during his bout 

with blindness.  Not only did he survive his battle, but he lived to 

remain the ruler of what was once Lear�s kingdom.

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