Notes on King Lear Themes

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King Lear Topic Tracking: Vision

Act 1, Scene 1

Vision 1: Cordelia refused to pander to her father's petty interests. She can see right through him and refuses to succumb to his wishes. Her actions here kick off the main theme of the play. Vision is usually associated with intelligence, and blindness with misbehavior or self-delusion. (lines 59-76)

Act 1, Scene 2

Vision 2: Edgar is temporarily blinded by his brother's greed. Edmund is attempting to formulate a scheme that, far down the road, will establish him as the main heir to the kingdom, instead of Edgar. Edmund is trying to plan far into the future, but his vision is clearly blurred. (lines 130-177)

Act 2, Scene 4

Vision 3: The Fool emerges as an interesting character because he does not live up to his name. All throughout the play, and beginning here, he is clearly the wisest man with the most pragmatic and straightforward perspective. He is smart enough to both dupe the king and convince the king of what is right. (lines 60-83)

Act 3, Scene 4

Vision 4: The king becomes aware of his own frailties, and for the first time his vision is not so clouded. He is starting to see the difference between right and wrong, good and evil. It's interesting that he comes up with his clearest insights in the midst of his insanity. (lines 28-36)

Vision 5: Edgar is the hero of the play, and his time disguised as a beggar only exists so he can further see the truth. (lines 37-107)

Vision 6: Lear is realizing his past blindnesses when Gloucester arrives in the woods. Gloucester's inability to see past his own blindness--by failing to recognize his own son dressed as a beggar--highlights Lear's somewhat insane advances. (lines 108-175)

Act 3, Scene 7

Vision 7: Cornwall physically plucks out Gloucester's eyes. Literally, Gloucester is unable to see from this point onward. The metaphor extends itself into a physical manifestation and its reversal--as he is blinded, Gloucester discovers the truth about his sons and realizes he's been blind all along. (lines 27-107)

Act 4, Scene 1

Vision 8: Edgar sees his father for the first time in a while, and discovers his blindness. He realizes that his own life is indeed not the "worst." There is always something lower. He begins to see that he will always need to support his father from this point onward. (lines 1-79)

Act 4, Scene 2

Vision 9: Albany can see through Regan and Goneril's greed quite easily. They yell at him and chastise him, but he doesn't care because he knows they are evil underneath the surface. (lines 29-68)

Act 4, Scene 4

Vision 10: Cordelia enters the scene and finds her father in his state of insanity. She understands she must care for him from this point onward. She can see his good side, even though he has gone crazy and abandoned her. She knows that, despite his mental illness, her father does indeed still love her.

Act 4, Scene 6

Vision 11: Lear is quite a different person than he was in the beginning. He is covered in flowers and weeds, both humble and natural. He says that his royal garb and showy accessories were blinding him when he was king. He says he has gained a new vision from seeing what is real. (lines 80-199)

Act 5, Scene 3

Vision 12: Lear is being sent to prison with Cordelia and the possibility of death does not faze him. It's because this is the first time, and sadly the last, when he is entirely content with his free self and his clarity of the world. Perhaps this is the first time Lear can really see the world for what it is. (lines 1-25)

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