The ability to observe clearly and precisely is vital, because trickery of many kinds can fool us into submission. William Shakespeare s play King Lear is one of the many plays that contain the theme of blindness and vision. This important theme is present mostly in acts one and three as it provides the play with profound meanings in life. Therefore, the concept of appearance versus reality is closely connected to blindness and vision. The characters Edmund, Gloucester, and Lear all exhibit some type of blindness that hinders their true vision to observe clearly. Edmund is Gloucester s illegitimate son in the play.
Although Gloucester treats both Edgar and Edmund equally, Edmund still possesses anger and hatred against his father for committing adultery, thus rendering him as a bastard in the eyes of society. In Edmund s soliloquy he says, Edmund the base/ Shall top th legitimate. I grow, I prosper/ Now, gods, stand up for bastards! (Act I, sc. ii) Through this speech, it reveals that Edmund intends to replace his brother in the inheritance of their father s land. Edmund is blinded by his ambition to succeed and to rise in power so that society will no longer look down on him.
Furthermore, Edmund himself displays appearance versus reality because he cleverly hides his true intentions from his father and Edgar. Nobody really suspects that the loyal Edmund possesses such evil intentions caused by society s blindness in accepting bastards. The Lord of Gloucester is one of Lear s dukes in the play. He plays a vital role because his family parallels that of King Lear s family.
As Lear did not see the true love behind Cordelia, Gloucester also did not see the true Edgar as he believes in the falseness proposed by Edmund. However in act three Gloucester proclaims, O my follies! Then Edgar was abused. / Kind gods, forgive me that, and prosper him (Act 3, sc iii). In his speech, Gloucester regrets that he had mistaken Edgar to be the evil son. He realizes that his blindness in observing the truth caused his bond with Edgar to be broken. Also, the duke of Cornwall physically blinds Gloucester by ripping his eyes out.
For instance, he claims to see things correctly when he says, I shall not need spectacles, in reading the letter that Edmund had fashioned. Yet he is actually blinded by Edmund s trickery. This symbolizes that although Gloucester have eyes to see, he is no better in observing the truth. King Lear is the main character in the play. According to his actions, he is a very rash person who acts on impulse when he is angry. A prime example is when he disowns Cordelia because she did not flatter him like her other sisters.
Lear says, Here I disclaim all my paternal care Be as well neighbored, pitied, and relieved/ As thou my sometime daughter (Act I, sc. i). In Lear s speech, he is blinded by his anger and his passion because Cordelia did not flatter him similar to his other daughters. The embarrassment of Cordelia s truth blinds his senses of true love and he treats love as mere commodity that can be bought. Hearing Lear disown his daughter, the Earl of Kent boldly protests Lear s foolish and impulsive decision, See better, Lear, an let me still remain/ The true blank of thine eye. However, Kent s interference only infuriates Lear more and later banishes him.
It is later on in the play that Lear finally see and understand that Cordelia s reserve is a sign of depth rather than of lack of affection. Conclusively, Edmund, Gloucester, and Lear all display their blindness to observe the truth due to their ignorance. It is through the course of the play that all of the above characters finally see and understand the people and things around them. The notion of appearance versus reality can be linked to the theme of blindness and vision because of their similarity in meaning. Being unable to observe precisely through masks and trickery can lead to the similar tragedies in life experienced by the characters in the play. It is through the ability to understand and to become more open-minded that we can experience successful relationships..