Blindness be able to differentiate right from wrong;

Blindness in literature is utilized to express a lack of perception
of truth. The ideas of blindness are not analyzed by Shakespeare as physical characteristics,
but rather physiological quality. In the Shakespearean
novel, King Lear, the theme of blindness demonstrates the importance of having awareness
of individuals in regards to your surroundings. The theme of blindness is
displayed through three prime characters: King Lear, Gloucester, and Albany.
Each of this character’s blindness was the primary cause of the poor decisions
they made; decisions which have led to severed relationships, hardships and
death. The theme of blindness figuratively represents ignorance which is seen throughout
the novel from characters such as King Lear, Gloucester and Albany who are
unable to see the truth which ultimately lead to downfall.

It
is apparent that the main character of the novel, King Lear, suffers from being
incapable of seeing the truth. Due to King Lear’s role in society, ruling the
kingdom of Britain, he was assumed to be able to differentiate right from wrong;
unfortunately, his absence of sight hinders him to do so. Lear’s first act of
blindness is seen at the beginning of the play. In Act I Scene I Lear becomes
enraged by Cordelia’s response to how much she loves him. King Lear
misunderstands what is meant when Cordelia says, “My heart into my mouth. I
love your Majesty according to my bond, no more no less.” (I.I. 101-102).
Cordelia
loves Lear more than she loves her sisters; her integrity prevents her from
making a misleading declaration in an attempt to acquire his wealth. As the
article explains, “She tells us that her heart is more rich than her tongue,
that she cannot heave her heart into her mouth; and the expression of tender
emotion does elsewhere make her dumb” (Morris).Lear’s anger at what he believes
to be her lack of affection pushes the impending wheel of doom into a state of
motion. He gets rid Cordelia from from the kingdom. Lear’s servant Kent tries discuss
with him but he is unsuccessful and angers him even more. Kent says to Lear, “See
better” (I.II.108), meaning that he needs to be more aware and open his eyes to
the fault in his decision to banish Kent and Cordelia. Cordelia is the daughter
that loved Lear but he was unable to realize that. His lack of understanding
lead him to only see what he wanted instead of looking deeper into the
situation. Lear is bitter as Regan and Goneril forsaken him. Lear’s blindness can
be observed when kick out his trustworthy servant Kent. Kent even dressed up in
a disguise in an attempt to still be able to serve Lear. Lear does not notice
Kent’s disguise which proves how blind he is. Lear reaches his lowest point
when he is left outside in the storm. Lear states, “Doth any here know me?
“Does any here know me? This is not Lear. Does Lear walk thus, speak thus?
Where are his eyes?” (Lear I.IV.231-233). Lear has come to the point does
not know who he has become. His incapability to see has impacted his moral
compass and overall ruins him. Lear was fighting a battle against himself which
ended in defeat and death of himself and his daughter Cordelia.

In
addition, the Earl of Gloucester is another character which is affected by
blindness. Gloucester’s inability to see causes him to be incapable of seeing
the true villain out of his two sons, Edgar and Edmund. Edgar, Gloucester’s
legitimate son and next in line for the crown, has always been loyal and
faithful to him but Edmund, Gloucester’s illegitimate son, has always felt like
a second class citizen. Edmund sets up a plan in an attempt to pit his father
against his own brother. Edmund is successful and Gloucester is furious from
the news he received from Edmund. Due to the series of events which unfold,
Edgar is forced to flee from home because Gloucester wants to kill him before
Edgar kills him. Gloucester’s blindness prohibits him from correctly addressing
the situation and confronts Edgar instead. All Edgar’s life he was loving and
loyal towards his father yet Gloucester still took Edmunds words and believed
that Edgar wanted to kill him. Edmund’s plans took Gloucester’s blindness as
leverage as well as an effort to become the next heir to his title instead of
Edgar who was rightfully supposed to take over. As the plot of the story
reaches a climax, a turn of events leads to Gloucester being named a traitor by
wicked characters named Cornwall and Regan. Regan and Cornwall decide to punish
Gloucester; they decide to pluck Gloucester’s eyes from his head, which results
in him losing his eyesight. He is then kicked out of the kingdom and left to
fend from himself. It is only then when he is in a state of complete and utter vulnerability
that he sees which son has always loved him. In a state of realization
Gloucester states:

I
have no way and therefore want no eyes.

I
stumbled when I saw. Full oft ’tis seen,

Our
means secure us, and our mere defects

Prove
our commodities. O dear son Edgar,

The
food of thy abusèd father’s wrath,

Might
I but live to see thee in my touch,

I’d
say I had eyes again! (Shakespeare IV.I.19-25)  

In
the quotation, Gloucester comes to the realization that with eyes he is
oblivious to the truth. He speaks of actually also benefiting from the loss of
his eyes as he is now capable of making clear decisions. At this point
Gloucester gains insight into the true identity of his children as well as
which of them actually loves him. Realizes all the wrong he has done in his
past and tries to mend the relationship between himself and his genuine son,
Edgar. Gloucester’s misunderstanding of the truth due to his lack of
consideration causes him to misinterpret the true nature of both his sons. As
the article states, “There comes a time when the King, too, is childishly
unable to understand anything beyond the most external details of another’s
situation” (KREIDER). Gloucester initially was not able to correctly assess
both sides of the situation, which is a demonstration of his inability to
comprehend the truth behind the facades. Gloucester’s punishment
which leads to his blindness makes true to his emotional blindness in regards
towards Edmund and Edgar, his sons.

Another
character which is struck by the plague of blindness is Albany. As a duke and
husband, to Goneril, he has many responsibilities which he needs to tend to
with unbiased judgment. Albany is not only blind to Goneril’s selfish and
impolite acts, but he is also completely unaware of her unfaithfulness and plans
to kill him. It has been demonstrated time and time again that Goneril is the
evil mastermind of the dynamic, while Albany quietly observes. Although Albany disagrees
with Goneril’s decisions, he only challenges her slightly out of fear of losing
her. When Goneril demanded Lear into lessening his army, Albany does not argue
with her. He states, “I cannot be so partial, Goneril. To the love I bear you-”
(Lear I.IV.329-330). Albany’s blindness is due to his intense love for Goneril,
which leads him not to protest against her heinous acts. As the story progresses,
Edgar assists Albany to finally see the corrupt and malicious individual
Goneril is. Edgar does so by presenting her merciless plans to end Albany’s
life. As the article explains, “the stronger and more awesome proponent of
evil: one who combines the efficient thinking and scheming of Edmund with the
fierceness and spiteful cruelty that is largely gratuitous in Regan and Cornwall”
(Mortenson). Goneril possess all the conniving traits which allow her to
continue to take advantage of Albany. Though, Albany finally realizes he needs
his voice to be heard as well as take a stand against Goneril’s behaviour.
Albany does so by saying,

 

“See thyself,
devil! Proper deformity (shows) not in the fiend. So horrid as in woman”
(IV.II.73-75).Albany speaks of Goneril’s image as a woman and how it has become
distorted by her hatred and mischievousness. Albany’s blind love for Goneril
leads him to be unaware of the true evil which lies within her. Goneril’s absence
from Albany’s life freed him from the evil as well as allows him to be able to
see the truth.

In
conclusion, blindness is a theme seen throughout the novel, King Lear. There are three main characters
affected by blindness: King Lear, Gloucester and Albany. They were unable to comprehend
the truth which leads them to make decisions they would ultimately come to
regret. The cataclysmic mistakes that Gloucester and King Lear make in misconstruing
their children comprise a form of allegorical blindness—a lack of intuition of
the real characters of those around them. Lear and Gloucester, the two father
roles, have similar destinies because of their blindness. Lear couldn’t see
that his two untrustworthy, mischievous daughters were plotting against him in
an attempt to gain his power and wealth. Instead, Lear destroys the
relationship between his faithful daughter, Cordelia. Lear’s inability to trust
what he observes causes Lear to become unstable. Gloucester seems to make the
identical misinterpretations as Lear. He also trusts his dishonest son Edmund
while simultaneously destroying his relationship between his loyal son, Edgar. It
is when Gloucester loses his actual sight he is able to see which son genuinely
loves him. Also being affected by blindness is Albany. Although his
circumstances are different, he is still negatively impacted by his inability
to see truth. Shakespeare is trying to show us through these examples of
blindness to be more aware in our day to day life.