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Sight and blindness in king lear
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Sight and blindness in king lear

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  • Unable to see anyone’s merits or faults, Lear refuses to look on those who have offended him. Metaphorically he is blind. Ironically Lear banishes Kent from his sight. However, it can be argued that Lear could never really see Kent. He was always blind to Kent’s loyalty to him. It is this loyalty in spite of Lear’s ignorance that makes it all the more important.
  • As monarch, he is a source of light and life in the Kingdom. When he burns ‘out’ all the characters associated with Lear are ‘left darkling’.
  • It is appropriate that the play brings them together near Dover in Act 4 to commiserate about how their blindness to the truth about their children has cost them dearly.

Transcript

  • 1. Sight and Blindness in King Lear Jordan Taylor and Chris Holland
  • 2. Overview
    • The importance of seeing yourself and the world clearly in one of the key themes in King Lear. It is reflected in the many images of sight and blindness within the play.
    • The play explores examples of sight and blindness both physically and metaphorically.
    • The theme of sight and blindness is implicit throughout “King Lear” but made explicit through the language and imagery used in the play , with recurring references made to vision and lack of it.
  • 3. Obvious Examples
    • Lear: the earliest reference to sight comes in Act One, Scene One after Lear has failed to see the truth about his three daughters. Kent tries to warn the King that he is behaving foolishly ‘See better, Lear’
    • Kent begs Lear to let him remain ‘the true blank of thine eye’
    • In response Lear dismisses Kent ‘out of my sight’
    • Kent is able to see Cordelia's true love for Lear, so Kent tries to help Lear see her love, but Lear's stubbornness keeps his vision clouded.
  • 4. Continued…
    • The Fool sums up Lear’s folly neatly with a metaphor ‘so out went the candle and we were left darkling’ (1.4.213).
    • The line serves as a prediction for the end of Act Two where Lear is overwhelmed with dark thoughts and shut out in the storm.
    • We might also see Lear as the candle.
  • 5. Goneril and Regan
    • There are also some more subtle examples of sight and blindness in Lear. Goneril and Regan are blind.
    • They are naïve in assuming their loyalty to each other.
  • 6. New Sight
    • After the storm, Lear’s ability to see more clearly is apparent when he meets Gloucester.
    • In IV.6, the black humour of the references to sight heightens the pathos of old men suffering. It also comes as a relief as there is reason for Lear’s madness as he has seen what has happened to him and how he has been deceived.
  • 7. Gloucester and Lear comparison
    • Gloucester’s blinding is the physical manifestation of the mental torture Lear endured on the heath.
    • Gloucester's blindness prevents him from seeing the goodness of his son Edgar and the evil of his son Edmund.
    • Blindness
    • Gloucester’s physical blindness symbolises the metaphorical blindness that grips both Gloucester and the play’s other father figure, Lear.
    • The parallels between the two men are clear: both have loyal children and disloyal children, both are blind to the truth, and both end up banishing the loyal children and making the wicked ones their heirs.
    • Only when Gloucester has lost the use of his eyes and Lear has gone mad does each realize his tremendous error.
  • 8. Quotes and things
    • Let’s see. Come, if it be nothing, I shall not need spectacles ... Let’s see, let’s see.
    • Can’t see how he is being deceived
    • Blindness as punishment: Gloucester may have been punished for committing adultery, or for being deceived and subsequently regarding his son as a traitor so willingly.
    • “ That dark and vicious place where thee he got, Cost him his eyes”
    • Blindness as escape. Gloucester is physically blinded. Through this he is able to pursue a sight more meaningful and important than sight itself.
  • 9. Concluding…
    • Shakespeare uses Gloucester's realisation of reality and Lear's inability to see with his heart to portray his theme of blindness.