The theme of blindness in King Lear

Question: The theme of blindness in King Lear – dramatically both physical and emotional – presented – illuminate.


Blindness is a theme that is seen in numerous characters throughout the play “King Lear”, including Lear himself as well as Gloucester and Albany. Visual deficiency is usually characterized as blindness, but Shakespeare has shown us that emotional or psychological blindness is the same as a visual deficiency.

Lear’s Blindness

It can be argued that King Lear’s blindness is the direct reason behind his entire downfall and tragic death. Lear is the king of Britain and therefore has a lot of power and wealth. As king, it is his task to discern between good and evil but his lack of sight makes him unable to do that. In Act I, Scene I, Lear’s youngest and the most adored daughter Cordelia adopts an alternate strategy. She clarifies that she can never put the genuine profundity of her adoration for her dad into words. Lear doesn’t get what she is attempting to say, and angrily, Lear abrogates Cordelia from his sight and kingdom.  Thus, Lear has been emotionally blinded by Cordelia’s refusal to confess her love for him. When Lear’s faithful servant Kent tries to tell him to ‘See better’ meaning that he needs to open his eyes to the mistake he is about to make, but stupidly Lear also banishes his most trusty companion. Lear later regrets this as his other two daughters betray him. Lear is also blind because he is unable to see that his servant Kent serves him in disguise. When everything starts going wrong and Lear is stuck outside in the storm he has hit his lowest point.

“Doth any here know me? This is not Lear:

Doth Lear walk thus? speak thus? Where are his eyes?”

Here Lear can no longer recognize himself. He now knows that he is not the strongest ruler in Britain. Thus, Lear’s blindness drives him crazy.

Gloucester’s Blindness

Gloucester is one of Lear’s noblemen whose situation is remarkably like Lear. Gloucester has a loyal son, Edgar, and a treacherous son, Edmund. Edmund cheats Gloucester with a forged letter and makes him think that Edgar plans to usurp his estate. Edmund arranges a fake attack on him by Edgar, for which Gloucester disinherits Edgar and proclaims him an outlaw. After that Edgar adopts false madness and hides in the countryside to save his life and to help his father and Lear. In this way, Gloucester’s blindness denies him the ability to see the truth in either of his two sons.

But when Gloucester understands his mistake, he tries to help Lear, but Regan and her cruel husband Cornwall catch him. And Gloucester has been blinded by Regan and Cornwall. In this way, the suffering of Gloucester gets started like King Lear. Gloucester regretfully says:

Might I but live to see thee in my touch,

I’d say I had eyes again!”

In these lines, he states that he could not see clearly when he had eyes. He says that having eyes made him spoiled and now that they are gone it is somewhat advantageous for now since he knows the truth.

Albany’s Blindness

Albany is yet another character who is blinded from the truth. In his case, he is not only blind to Goneril’s mean and greedy ways, but he is also completely unaware of her plans to kill him. On top her evil acts, Goneril is unfaithful to Albany, he is also unaware of this. Luckily for him, his blindness doesn’t cost him his life, unlike Lear and Gloucester. Edgar helps Albany see the evil in Goneril by showing him Goneril’s heartless plans to kill Albany. Albany finally realizes that his wife is not a good person and he must stand up to her. Albany says;

“O Goneril,/ You are not worth the dust which the rude wind /Blows in your face!”

Once Albany sees the true Goneril, he is free from her evil ways. He survives his period of blindness and moves on to become the ruler of Lear’s former kingdom.


Throughout King Lear, blindness is a reoccurring theme. The characters’ inability to see the truth inhibits them from making rightful decisions. The two father figures, Lear and Gloucester, have similar fates due to their blindness.

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SR Sarker
SR Sarker
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