King Lear

King Lear


William Shakespeare

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Blindness and Insight Theme Analysis

Read our modern English translation.
Themes and Colors
Fathers, Children, and Siblings Theme Icon
Authority and Order Theme Icon
Disintegration, Chaos, Nothingness Theme Icon
Old Age Theme Icon
Fooling and Madness Theme Icon
Blindness and Insight Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in King Lear, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Blindness and Insight Theme Icon

The tragic errors that King Lear and Gloucester make in misjudging their children constitute a form of figurative blindness—a lack of insight into the true characters of those around them. Reminding the audience of this fact, the language of the play resounds with references to eyes and seeing from the very beginning. Cornwall and Regan make these images and metaphors of (failed) vision brutally literal when they blind Gloucester in 3.7. For the remainder of the play, Gloucester serves as a kind of walking reminder of the tragic errors of blindness that he and Lear have committed. Yet, Gloucester's greater insight into the character of his two sons after he is blinded reflects an irony: literal blindness ironically produces insight. Only when Gloucester is blind can he see things for what they are.

Throughout the play, characters allude to, and call upon, the gods and the heavens watching over them. As noted above, the gods and heavens suggest order and eventual justice. However, as watchers of the action of the play, the gods also become a kind of audience, and like the audience they both see the story of what is happening more completely than the individual characters on stage and can't seem to do anything to stop it.

Related Themes from Other Texts
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Blindness and Insight Quotes in King Lear

Below you will find the important quotes in King Lear related to the theme of Blindness and Insight.
Act 1, scene 1 Quotes
"I want that glib and oily art
To speak and purpose not."
Related Characters: Cordelia (speaker)
Page Number: 1.1.258-259
Explanation and Analysis:
"Yet he hath ever but slenderly known himself."
Related Characters: Regan (speaker), King Lear
Page Number: 1.1.339-340
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 3, scene 7 Quotes
"Out, vile jelly!"
Related Characters: Cornwall (speaker), Gloucester
Page Number: 3.7.101
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 4, scene 6 Quotes
"How fearful
And dizzy tis to cast one's eyes so low!
I'll look no more
Lest my brain turn and the deficient sight
Topple down headlong."
Related Characters: Edgar (speaker), Gloucester
Page Number: 4.6.16-29
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 5, scene 3 Quotes
"Howl, howl, howl! O, you are men of stones!
Had I your tongues and eyes, I'd use them so
That heaven's vault should crack. She's gone forever."
Related Characters: King Lear (speaker), Cordelia
Related Literary Devices:
Page Number: 5.3.308-310
Explanation and Analysis: