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How is imagery of sight and blindness used in the main characters' journey to wisdom, in Sophocles' Oedipus Rex and William Shakespeare's The Tragedy of King Lear?

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Introduction

How is imagery of sight and blindness used in the main characters' journey to wisdom, in Sophocles' Oedipus Rex and William Shakespeare's The Tragedy of King Lear? One of the key themes in both Shakespeare's The Tragedy of King Lear and Sophocles' Oedipus Rex is the importance of having a good understanding of our condition as human beings - knowing ourselves, the world that surrounds us and our place in it. At the same time, however, both authors recognize the fact that blindness to this knowledge of the human condition is a basic mortal trait. Thus, before we can have an understanding of the human condition, we must endure a journey to wisdom. The two authors view the journey to wisdom in terms of metaphors of blindness and seeing. Sight is a frequently used metaphor for perception, knowledge and awareness, whilst blindness connotes ignorance, insensitivity and the inability to perceive and understand. In the two plays, the characters are initially blind to their own condition, which eventually leads them to make faulty decisions, despite the warnings of others. Consequently the characters suffer as a result of their poor judgment, and only then do they gain sight and a clear understanding of their own situation. The characters who undergo this journey are Shakespeare's Lear and Gloucester, along with Sophocles' Oedipus. ...read more.

Middle

(We as the audience have to accept this as true, since the Ancient Greeks believed in soothsayers). Once Oedipus learns of Teiresias' prophecies, he immediately disputes them. Thus, opposite the clairvoyant, Oedipus emerges as someone, who is very much blind to his own condition. This contrast between the two characters is further heightened, by the fact that Teiresias is physically blind and Oedipus is seeing. For an audience these two images would provide an immediate physical difference among the two, that they could easily identify. In The Tragedy of King Lear blindness is an appropriate metaphor, since Lear's behavior is just like that of a blind man's. Lear is just as blind to the possible consequences of his rash decisions, as a blind man is to the visual world. His loyal servant, Kent attempts to dissuade Lear from banishing Cordelia in poor judgment, 'see better, Lear'vii he begs. Kent wishes to 'remain the true blank of thine [Lear's] eye'viii. However, Lear remains blind and angrily tells Kent to get 'Out of [his] sight!'.ix Oedipus' unwillingness to acknowledge his own condition is aptly reflected in metaphors of blindness as well. Oedipus chooses to remain blind to the prophecies of Teiresias, in the same manner, as Lear does to Kent's counsel. ...read more.

Conclusion

When asked who has blinded him, Oedipus responds that 'Apollo has laid this agony upon [him]'. Furthermore, Oedipus has accepted the inevitable nature of his own fate and knows that 'not age, nor sickness, nor a common accident can end [his] life.' Following his blinding Gloucester states that ' 'Tis the times' plague when madmen lead the blind.'xix This reflects one of the chief dangers of being blind to our own condition as human beings, those who are unaware of certain aspects of their being, are easily fooled and deceived (lead by madmen). Lear, Gloucester and Oedipus all go on a journey for wisdom; however the knowledge of their own condition comes too late, Lear goes mad, Oedipus and Gloucester loose their eyes. The advantage we have, as the audience is drama's godlike perspective, which allows us to examine the lives of the characters of a play and to detect our own blindness in due time. It must be noted that Shakespeare's The Tragedy of King Lear and Sophocles' Oedipus Rex, present us with two very different i I.1.116 ii I.1.51 iii I.1.41 iv I.1.41 v I.1.96 vi I.1.301-302 vii I.1.158 viii I.1.159 ix I.1.157 x I.1.300-301 xi I.1.373 xii I.1.380-381 xiii I.1.318 xiv IV.5.101 xv V.3.253 xvi IV.6.69 xvii IV.1.18 xviii IV.5.141-142 xix IV.1.47 ?? ?? ?? ?? - 3 -- 3 -- 3 - Martin Vaivods IBH English A1 World Literature Paper II - 1 - ...read more.

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