Discuss the theme of blindness in King Lear


The theme of blindness in King Lear

Through flattery, manipulation, deceits and physical blindness, Shakespeare’s play “King Lear” uses play’s character to make a judgment on society using blindness as a metaphor and a theme throughout the play. Shakespeare displays characters easily manipulated, coerced or simply who express clear lack of wisdom, a theme that presents a blind society devoid of sound judgment. He couples this tune with Gloucester’s psychical blindness used as a metaphor for lack of vision, insights and apparent lack of perceptions on other people’s opinion and interest to advance the theme of blindness even further. Shakespeare introduces an interesting concept of self-awareness and understanding of the world around a person. Just like many of his plays, Shakespeare displays the insincerity of social disorder in the family structure, court and legal system and virtually all spheres of the society. This essay explores and describes the theme of blindness in Shakespeare’s in “King Lear” play.

Blindness as a metaphor

Blindness to oneself is the most unadorned form of blindness Shakespeare express is the blindness to oneself. For instance, emotions blind Albany to a point of loss of self-awareness. His feeling towards Gonerill is clouded by poor judgment based on emotions that obscure his own intentions on Gonerill. Albany, however, develops some insight and awareness that helps him see his wife’s inhumanity and things around him. Although the reader may assume that Albany's arise from simple heart and goodness, a deeper analysis reveals a lack of awareness and insight that dictates his actions. Unlike Albany’s character of integrity and naivety, a parallel character, uncompassionate and obnoxious Cornwall, comes with a low sense of integrity, and a divisive character who manipulates and take advantage of others. Cornwall is morally blind and unwilling or not able to judge his own actions and its effects on others. His clouded judgment and blindness to social issues finally lead him to death as his own servant’s turns against him just he turned against his host and the king. Through poetic justice, Shakespeare expletively uses the metaphor of blindness to show a clear sign of self-awareness, a sense of social responsibilities. As an addition, Shakespeare describes a chronological and consequential growth of Albany in strength and awareness and gains of justice and virtue.

Another character on that appears irresponsible is Lear. Lear is much preoccupied with appearance and obviously do not wishes to the trapping of his majesty without a care and business of ruling. Although it is easy to show power division of his kingdom as a kind gesture, a deeper analysis, however, it is possible to depict how false his values and his desire o rely on Cordelia’s kind nursery as selfish, and with self-interest. In fact, later in the play, we will see the character develops and Shakespeare reveals his qualities of selfishness, greediness and low opinion on other people’s lives. At one point of the pay, we are made to assume the Lear is most caring, tolerant and with much interest to the people’s interest.

Kent is integral and key to the understanding of the Lear's character as is a fool. Kent sees and push Lear’s toward the truth and tries to “Out-jets” Lear inquires and continue to motivate the king as by speaking of him with “hideous rashness”. In a full understanding, Lear undergoes through an entire learning process. He suffers in his madness in a turn of the events to allow him to have a different perception of himself and people around him. During his time on his bad health, Lear considers with great reference to the things he selfishly did and paid little attention while he was in power. Such things experienced by Lear are still common and relevant even today and the condition where the poor suffers injustice and corrupt system that requires necessity. From his lie lessons, Lear emerges from his torment as not only able to see clearly the evils and faults of his life but also comes out more humbly, loving and with a self-critical character. Through his madness, he now can recognize and is able to distinguish between appearance and reality. He gains self-insight that takes him through the next couples of hours.

Physical blindness

Apart from the use of metaphors in revealing how the society is clouded with blindness and lack of insight and wisdom, Shakespeare metamorphic ally express the theme of blindness by using physical blindness throughout the play. The brutality of the lack of eyesight and sense expressed in the character of Gloucester shocks and distress the audience but also in turns helps the audience empathize with those characters that are “Blind.” As the readers, we feel more empathetic with characters who fall prey in the plays making it more tragic. Like the saying of Aristotle, that “the basis of tragedy lies on the pit of the sympathy” the audience in this play feels for the blind character.

This feeling is heightened with the realization that perhaps the human cruelty and inhumanity at inflicting cruelty on others goes even dipper than we can see in the play. The physical torture of Gloucester is much disbursing and brings about mentor agony endured in his health. In reference to Goneril’ malicious comments of plucking out his eyes make it even more distressing, increase the tension of the reader, and prepares him for the ugly crime that will appear later. In addition, we see Gloucester suffer in the hands of his follies simply due to the allegiance and loyalty to the king, defending Lear’s honor and criticizing Cornwall and Regan for their injustice towards Lear life of torment. Throughout his suffering’s, Gloucester learns and understand imperfections not only in the time of his death but shows that physical death could not show how people are really are in integrity and humanity. ‘I have no way, and therefore want no eyes; I stumbled when I saw. Gloucester explains the paradox of psychical sight and self-knowledge of understanding and acceptance.


While physical lack of physical site is obvious and apparent, Shakespeare illustrates how lack of insight, wisdom, and blindness cause much anguish and pain in humans. While both blindness expressively misdirects the subject and keeps him out of the reality, this plays depicts mental blindness as more serious and prone to affect the society than even the physical blindness. In fact, the author shows and depicts that even people with physical blindness could in a way have a social awareness, understating of the people around them and act responsibly and consciously. However, when mental blindness clouds one mind, the result is self-destruction and brutal treatment of other human surrounding such as a person.

Work Cited

Shakespeare, William. King Lear. , 2016. Internet resource.

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