Mirroring the Blindness of King Lear and Gloucester
Blindness is generally seen as the lack of visual perception due to physiogical or neurological factors. In “King Lear”, Shakespeare portrays different types of blindness using two important characters in his play. Gloucester’s physical blindness forbids him from seeing the good in his loyal son, Edgar and the evil ways of his son Edmund. King Lear’s spiritual blindness triggers him to demonstrate poor judgement by unquestioning the dishonest children Goneril and Regan, but leaves him questioning the good child, Cordelia. The way that they acquit themselves shows how much their blindness’s mirrors one another. Their blindness leads to mayhem well beyond their own lives. Lear’s confidence and excessive pride and Gloucester’s superstition and gullibility, proves to be the key factors in their ultimate demise.
King Lear is the protagonist of Shakespeare’s masterpiece and thus suffers the most due to his tragic flaw. His excessive pride causes him to be blind to the truth about his situation. One major apparent of Lear’s blindness comes when he divides his land in such an irological manner. He has already decided on how he will divide his land but still insists his three daughters to make speeches professing on how much they love him. “Tell me, my daughters.../Which of you shall we say doth love us most/That we our largest bounty may extend/Where nature doth with merit challenge?” (1.1. 48-54). This quote shows that Lear deprives himself of the power and authority of a king; he expects to be treated like a king regardless of the deficiencies of his eldest daughter’s untendered answer. Nonetheless, does he realize that dividing his kingdom into the hands of Goneril and Regan will only cause Britain to fall apart, due to the fact that the two sisters refuse to behave civilly. Although Lear can physically see, he cannot see someone for who they really are; the love that Lear is receiving is quantitative love, not real love. He is blinded by his own ego and pride when he cannot or will not see that his older daughters are devious plotters and his youngest is the honest and loving child. Goneril and Regan, much like one another, both flatter their father with superficial compliments, yet he buys it; but when Cordelia then speak these words stating “Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave/My heart into my mouth: I love your majesty/According to my bond; no more nor less.” (1.1. 91-93), and how she refuses to state false declaration in order to gain his wealth, Lear banishes her. Kent then stands up for Cordelia saying “Answer my life my judgment, /Thy youngest daughter does not love thee least, /Nor are those empty-hearted whose low sound/Reverbs no hollowness”. (1.1. 154-158) he tries to reason with Lear that Cordelia does not love him the least, and just because she isn’t expressing her love in the insufficient way that Lear wants her to, doesn’t mean that she hates him. Despite Kent's efforts into convincing Lear that he is naive and unaware who the virtuous daughter is, Lear banishes his accusations, responding, "Out of my sight!" (1.1. 161). It is also not to be forgotten that Cordelia is the daughter of Lear and he should know that she loves him most, but he is so in desperate of feeding his ego that he is blinded towards this. He does not apprehend with the fact that unlike Goneril and Regan, Cordelia actually fights for Lear and his kingdom instead of against it. As the play goes on, the audience starts to unravel the truth behind the two wicked daughters and their plan to demise Lear. They promptly betray him and attempt to make Lear believe it is his fault that his old age is the reason for is excessive pride. “Tis the infirmity of his age; yet he hath ever but slenderly known himself” (1.1. 290-291). They do not shed a tear nor pity their father when they witness him suffering. Lear then comes to consciousness and