The concepts of blindness and sight are not explored by Shakespeare as physical qualities, but rather mental attributes. Blindness in characters exacerbates their ability to understand, causing misjudgment which leads to chaos in the play. This recurring theme of blindness and insight is portrayed primarily through Lear and Gloucester, who demonstrate that physical sight does not assure clear insight into a situation.
There are many examples in the play of King Lear that portray this motif. These examples are usually present in the later acts of the play such as Acts 3 and 4 as the characters need to grow from their past ignorance and embrace the light.
An example of blindness and insight is shown when Lear prayed before going to sleep when he was stuck outside during the storm. (III.IV.29-42). This scene shows the insight the mad man gained after encountering the storm. His insight is represented by his care for the poor creatures and homeless beggars after he realized the type of situations they endure.
Lear encountered a lot of blindness in the play which is prominently shown in scene one when he let himself be fooled by Goneril and Regan as he gave up his throne for them (I.I.56-95). Other examples of blindness in the play include the banishment of Kent and the failure of Lear to see through the many disguises of Edgar (Glouster as well) and Kent.
As the play continued towards the conclusion, Lear’s sanity decreased. However, as his sanity plumber, his vision increased. Lear’s insight also grew more with the presence of Cordelia as he realizes his faults. Unfortunately, he was too late. Following Machiavelli’s quotes, great men cannot cover great sins. He was too late to fix his mistakes that he committed such as the breakdown of the Great Chain of Being and the banishment of his dear Cordelia and Kent.
Glouster was heavily blinded by Edmund’s lies and failed to see the goodness present within his own son Edgar. After Edmund showed him the forged letter, Glouster’s rage blinded him and made him not consider for a moment if Edgar’s intention was to take over his father’s wealth. Only until Glouster lost his eyesight, his insight increased as he realizes the mistakes he made and the fact that he took Edgar for granted.
Examples of quotes of blindness and insight