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A Consideration of the way Shakespeare presents and develops the theme of blindness in 'King Lear' Throughout 'King Lear', Shakespeare uses the play's characters to make judgements on society

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Introduction

A Consideration of the way Shakespeare presents and develops the theme of blindness in 'King Lear' Throughout 'King Lear', Shakespeare uses the play's characters to make judgements on society using blindness as a metaphor that runs through the play. He does this in a number of ways portraying characters that can be fooled by others' flattery, or are easily manipulated or deceived, or simply have a lack of wisdom. As well as the horrific physical blinding of Gloucester, blindness is used as a metaphor for characters' lack of insight, moral blindness, and a lack of perception into other's needs and interests. Shakespeare illustrates the importance of seeing yourself and the world around you clearly. Shakespeare shows how seeing clearly is linked to an understanding of what the world is really like. As in many of Shakespeare's plays, 'King Lear' is used to highlight the hypocrisy of social order, whether it is the royal court, the legal system, or simply the family structure. The most severe form of blindness addressed in the play, is blindness to oneself. In the case of Albany he is blinded by his own emotions. His feelings toward Gonerill cloud his judgement, thus he is blind not only to himself, but to the true intentions of Gonerill. ...read more.

Middle

The lines, 'One side will mock another' and 'Out, vile jelly', emphasise the horror of the act, to stress the evil of Cornwall and Regan, but also more importantly to place sight and the loss of it at the heart of the scene's imagery. Lear's agony he endured on the heath, and references such as Gonerill's malicious comment, 'Pluck out his eyes' increase the tension in the reader and prepare us for the hideous crime. Similarly to Kent, Gloucester suffered because he tried to help Lear, and even throughout his suffering Gloucester shows strength of character and remains loyal to his king, defending Lear's honour and berating Cornwall and Regan for their injustice towards Lear. Gloucester learns through his suffering, that whilst he had eyes he saw imperfectly, and only at his time of death when he had no physical sight could he see people for who they truly were. In the line, 'I have no way, and therefore want no eyes; I stumbled when I saw.' Gloucester highlights the plays central paradox, which does not refer to physical sight, but rather to self-knowledge, understanding, and acceptance of other's characters. Through his suffering, Gloucester gains heroic status, and because of his new-found insight can be the voice of the audience. ...read more.

Conclusion

At the start of the play Lear is overwhelmed with the decoration of majesty, he claims his crown makes him 'ague-proof'. His Kingly garments blind him from the truth, he must discard all those material things, which on the surface seem to express his inner identity, his rich clothing, fine speech, and extravagant food, to reach true understanding of humankind. It is on the heath, where Lear's loss of sanity is represented by the stripping of his clothes. Lear is faced with the truth and removes his kingly garments, saying, 'Off off You lendlings'. Lear can now see beyond appearances, and realises his royal finery is proof of his folly, as he no longer has any power. Lear can now start to learn to see again, and guilefully notices that, 'furred gowns hide all'. Only when Lear can's vision and sanity are restored, is he ready to wear clothes again. The dramatic use of imagery of sight and blindness are not simply decoration to the play, but contain the central meaning of it. The metaphor of sight illustrates Shakespeare's viewpoints on themes, ideas and situations presented in the play. The relationship between a character's sight, and their fate within the structure of 'King Lear', is at the core of Shakespeare's tragedy. ?? ?? ?? ?? Ailsa Bulloch English Coursework Alton Convent School ...read more.

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