Essay King Lear Blindness


 Jamie Wilman 7090 63255


5CWednesday, 03 October 2007blinding that he will receive later in the play, but is an example of metaphoricalblindness. In the opening moments of the first scene, the significance of whichare often overlooked, Gloucester is speaking to Kent about whom the King willgive the most of his kingdom to, and he makes a harsh joke about his son’spaternity.[ACT1 SCENE1: 8] G


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Gloucester iscompletely blind to the repercussions that his treatment of Edmond will have onhim later in the play. By humiliating him in public on such an embarrassingmatter that Gloucester takes only light heartedly, he sets the evil of Edmondagainst him. The irony is that later Edmond will hoodwink him, blind him from thetruth about his other son, and manipulate him to put a price on that son’s,Edgar’s, head. The irony is taken even further in that Gloucester’s blindnessthere will leave him physically blinded by two evil characters later in the play.Edmond performs the hoodwinking of his father through stage magic and cleverpsychological trickery. He appears to want to hide the letter to spark his father’scuriosity. He then allows its forged contents in Edgar’s hand to be read and itsimplications absorbed by his father, but then solidifies his father’s belief that it istrue by appearing to defend his brother. Here we see just how flawedGloucester’s character is and how similar it is to Lear. Having seen the letter, hedoes not stop for one moment to consider that this was not in Edgar’s characterto do such a thing, or if there was any other evidence before this to support it. This exchange really highlights a point by Shakespeare that sight is not merelyvision (the letter appears to be written by Edgar, but is a forgery) but is aboutperception and penetrating judgement to see truth objectively.In the rest of the first scene, a father’s blindness to the ramifications of hisactions is repeated as Lear attempts to divide his kingdom between hisdaughters. First, Lear is blind enough to not see though the blatant lies of his twoelder daughters. Then, through this same character flaw, he does not see thewisdom, truth and purity of Cordelia’s speech. He banishes her. Lear then cannotperceive see how his maltreatment of Cordelia will backfire upon him. Nor doeshe see how foolish it will have been to entrust his whole kingdom to his two evildaughters. Kent, a loyal subject of Lear, warns Lear of the stupidity of hisactions, both of banishing Cordelia and of dividing his kingdom. Lear iscompletely blind to his actions here and Shakespeare emphasises this with anexchange between Kent and Lear.[ACT1 SCENE1: 153] L


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”!154] K 


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.”Lear then makes another blind andstupid decision and banishes Kent too from the kingdom. His is completelyignorant of where his loyalties lie in this scene. He has swallowed the lies fromhis two eldest daughters, has banished his only loyal daughter and now banisheshis most loyal servant.Kent does however, through pure loyalty to his King, return in disguise to aid andassist King Lear from within his court. The fact, though, that Lear cannotrecognise his most loyal servant in a simple costume draws attention again toLear’s blindness. Not only can he not perceive the truth, see clearly, but he can

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