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Can anyone help with some quotes on the themes of blindness and family in William...

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brandih | eNotes Employee

Posted November 5, 2013 at 9:24 PM via web

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Can anyone help with some quotes on the themes of blindness and family in William Shakespeare's King Lear?

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted November 5, 2013 at 11:34 PM (Answer #1)

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William Shakespere's King Lear contains numerous quotes which speak to both blindness and family. While some of the quotes' meanings are rather straightforward, others necessitate deeper scrutiny. For example, the following lines from act four may seem rather straightforward when it comes to Gloucester's desire to regain his sight ("had eyes again"), the excerpt contains much more regarding his intentions. 

"I have no way, and there want no eyes;
I stumbled when I saw. Full oft 'tis seen
Our  means secure us, and our mere defects
Prove our commodities. O dear son Edgar,
The food of thy abused father's wrath;
Might I but live to see thee in my touch,
I'd say I had eyes again!"

In Gloucester's blindness, he wishes to be left to wander alone. He understands that his own acceptance of Edmund's words. Failing to scrutinize the truth behind what Edmund says, Gloucester feels that his blindness is, ultimately, his fault. Therefore, he must face life without a guide (either a person or his own eyes). 

Perhaps one of the most telling quotes regarding blindness comes, again, from act four: 

'Tis the time's plague when madmen lead the blind.

Here, those familiar with the Bible immediately recognize the allusion to blindness. Others should identify the irony behind the statement: blind leading the blind will get one nowhere. 

Essentially, theme of blindness or sight traverses the play. The fact the many of the characters fail to see the truth of what is directly in front of them illustrates how little we, as humans, truly pay attention.

As for the theme of family, the play illustrates the issues which arise when a family faces unrest. King Lear's inability to play his daughters against each other does not go as he plans. Instead, his daughters plot against him. It is far too late for King Lear to make amends with Cordelia when he finally realizes that she is the only one who supports her father and really loves him. 

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William Delaney | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 5, 2014 at 11:32 PM (Answer #2)

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In Act 2, Scene 4 the Fool recites the following lines:

Fathers that wear rags
Do make their children blind;
But fathers that bear bags
Shall see their children kind.

There seem to be at least two possible interpretations of "Do make their children blind." It may have been the practice of some beggars to blind one or more of their small children in order to incide pity among people from whom they were soliciting alms. Or the Fool may simply mean that grown children will be utterly blind to their fathers if the fathers have nothing to give them and nothing to leave them. This implies mutual blindness: The children will never see their fathers and the fathers will never see their children. But the fathers who bear bags (of gold and silver coins) will "see" their children and the children will come to "see" their fathers frequently, if only to ask for money. (Balzac wrote about a father whose two daughters were always coming to him for money in his novel Pere Goriot. Eventually they took everything.)

in Act 3, Scene 1 of Shakespeare's Measure for Measure, the Duke tells the prisoner Claudio:

Friend hast thou none;
For thine own bowels, which do call thee sire,
The mere effusion of thy proper loins,
Do curse the gout, serpigo, and the rheum,
For ending thee no sooner. 

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