The Importance of Sight and Blindness in Shakespeare's King Lear

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In Shakespearean terms, blindness can mean a whole host of things. Samuel Butler, an English novelist, said, “A blind man knows he cannot see, and is glad to be led, though it be by a dog, but he that is blind in his understanding, which is the worst blindness of all, believes he sees as the best, and scorns a guide." Blindness is a major theme that recurs throughout Shakespeare’s play, King Lear. Samuel Butler’s quote can be used to describe King Lear, who suffers, not from a lack of physical sight, but from a lack of insight and understanding. Blindness is a factor in his poor judgment. It plays a major role in the bad decisions he makes. It leads to harsh treatment of those closest to him. It is the combination of these …show more content…
The use of “eyesight” at this point in the play is also significant, as it further highlights not only Lear’s blindness to the truth of the situation but also how shows how clearly Goneril can see what she does. At this point of the play, the audience has their first insight to Goneril's true personality, and Lear's lack of perspective. It's not until we hear all three daughters' speeches that the audience is introduced to Lear's metaphorical blindness. The metaphorical language and “beauty” of both Goneril and Regan's speeches blind Lear and indulge the petulant monarch. It is Lear's blinded state that stops him from understanding and accepting Cordelia's expression of her love. Shakespeare uses Lear's kingdom as a symbol of his affection towards his three daughters. It's implied throughout Act I, that Cordelia is Lear's favourite daughter, therefore receiving the most prized part of his kingdom. Not only does this show the daughters' ranking in Lear's heart but also, the blindness he is unaware of. It is suggested that Lear thinks that by dividing the land by level of love, he is being a good father. Lear’s blindness thus is shown to primarily to be in the affairs of love, he cannot conceive of love unquantified by worth as shown by the ever famous line: “Thy fifty yet doth double five and twenty, And thou art twice her love.”. This fundamental

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