, Research Paper
Eye Spy with my little I Blindness can normally be defined as the inability of the eye to see, but according to Shakespeare, blindness is not a physical quality, but a mental flaw some people possess. In William Shakespeare s King Lear, three characters display this quality of blindness and the tragic effects of this flaw: King Lear, Gloucester and Albany. Looking at Lear s position as King, he should reflect the royal quality of being able to distinguish between good and evil, but he is blind to see the difference. First, he is easily deceived by his two eldest daughters lies, then, he is unable to see the reality of Cordelia s true love for him, and as a result, banishes her from his kingdom: …for we Have no such daughter, nor shall ever see That face of her again. Therefore be gone Without our grace, our love, our benison. (I, i, LL 265-267) Lear s blindness also caused him to banish one of his loyal followers, Kent. Kent was able to see Cordelia s true love for her father, and tried to protect her from her blind father s irrationality. After Kent is banished, he creates a disguise for himself and eventually Lear hires him as a servant. Lear s inability to determine his servant s true identity proves once again how blind Lear actually is. As the play progresses, Lear s eyesight reached closer to true vision. He realizes how wicked his two eldest daughters really are after they lock him out of the castle during a tremendous storm. Ironically, he later discovers that Cordelia is the only daughter he wants to see, asking her to forget and forgive (IV, vii, L 85). By this time, Lear finally starts to gain some direction, and his vision has cleared, but it is too late for his life to be saved. His lack of precognition had condemned him from the beginning. Gloucester s blindness denies him the ability to see the goodness of Edgar and the evil of Edmund right from the beginning. Although Edgar is the good and loving son, Gloucester all but disowns him. He wants to kill the son that would later save his life. Gloucester s blindness begins when Edmund convinces him by the means of a forged letter that Edgar is plotting to kill him. Gloucester s lack of sight causes him to believe Edmund is the good son and prevents him from pondering the idea of Edmund being after his earldom. Near the end of the play, Gloucester finally regains his sight and realizes that Edgar saves his life disguised as Poor Tom and loves him all along. He realizes that Edmund planned to take over the earldom and that he is the evil son of the two. His inability to see the realities of his sons occur when he has his physical sight but at the same time is mentally blind. His ability to see the true nature of his sons occur after having his eyes plucked out by the Duke of Cornwall. Gloucester now learns to see clearly with his heart instead of his eyes. It is evident that he realizes this truth when he states:
I have no way and therefore want no eyes; I have stumbled when I saw. Full oft tis seen, Our means secure us, and our mere defects Prove our commodities. (IV, i, LL. 18-21) In this statement, he is saying that he has no need for eyes because when he had them, he could not see clearly. Albany was another character suffering from the classic case of blindness, but luckily for him, his vision clears up and he survives the battle. Albany s case of blindness was purely a result of the love he has for Goneril. Although he disapproves of Goneril s actions, he only mildly argues his case. When Goneril forces Lear to reduce his army so that he can stay in their castle, Albany protests: I cannot be so partial, Goneril, To the great love I bear You – (I, iv, LL 309-310) Albany s deep devotion to Goneril blinds him from the evil she possesses. His inability to realize how greedy and ghastly Goneril is after she flatters Lear with a bunch of lies and then kicks him out of their home. Albany is also blind to the fact that Goneril is cheating on him and that she is plotting to kill him. Fortunately, Edgar comes across a cure for Albany s blindness. A note outlining Goneril s evil plans is all Albany needs to see. Finally, Albany recognizes what a devil he was married to and lets out his emotions when he exclaims: O Goneril,You are not worth the dust which the rude windBlows in your face! (IV, ii, LL 29-31) Unlike Lear and Gloucester, Albany didn t suffer much during his bout with blindness. Not only did he survive his battle, but also he lived to remain the ruler of what was once Lear s kingdom. Not being able to see clearly causes the downfall of King Lear, Gloucester and Albany. Being blind is not only a trait known to a physical world, but as well to the mind. Many people are blind to knowledge, wisdom and common sense.