Explain the theme of sight and insight in King Lear.

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One of the most shocking scenes in all of Shakespeare occurs when Gloucester’s eyes are put out on stage. He is literally deprived of sight.

But by this point in the work, the blinding is not a sop to the bloodthirsty “groundlings,” the same people who flocked to see the spectacles of bearbaiting and bullbaiting. It is actually essential to one of King Lear’s great themes: seeing. The words “eyes,” “sight,” “see,” and “seeing,” are used over and over again in this play.

Here are some examples:

Kent: See better, Lear, and let me still remain The true blank of thine eye (act 1, scene 1).

Lear: Does Lear walk thus, speak thus? Where are his eyes? (act 1, scene 4).

Lear: You see me here, you gods, a poor old man As full of grief as age, wretched in both. (act 2, scene 4)

By the time Gloucester is blinded and Lear has run mad on the heath, both men have realized their true blindness:

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