Discuss sight and sight within King Lear

Essay by WhodunitHigh School, 12th gradeA-, January 2004

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In Shakespeare's tragedy King Lear, there is a reoccurring theme of insight and sight mostly between Gloucester and Lear; furthermore, Gloucester lacked physical sight but had insight, while Lear had physical sight but lacked insight. It is obvious that insight is not in any way derived from vision.

Throughout most of King Lear, Lear's vision is obstructed by his lack of insight. Since he can not see into other people's characters, he can not see them for who they really are. When Lear was angered by Cordelia in the beginning of the play, Kent tries to calm King Lear down but Lear says "Out of my Sight!" (1.1.168) and Kent responds with "See better, Lear, and let me still remain" (1.1.169). Kent wanted Lear to stop and think for a minute; however, Lear, in his ill state of mind, disregards what Kent is telling him because he can not see Kent for who he truly is: a loyal friend.

It took Lear a long time to realize exactly who Goneril really was: "How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is/ To have a thankless child!" (1.4.290-291). Then he wanted to move to Regan's place because he thought "I have another daughter, / Who I am sure is kind and comfortable" (1.4.309 - 310); however, he was gravely mistaken. So far, Lear can not see anybody for who they really are, not even Poor Tom the beggar. Lear, while insane, has physical sight but can not see people for who they really are and therefore sight does not guarantee insight.

Gloucester depicts this theme by demonstrating insight despite the total lack of vision. Before Gloucester lost his eyes, his situation was much like Lear's in the sense that he could not see what was really happening around him. When...