Discuss how madness and blindness are an intertwined metaphor in King Lear.
In William Shakespeare’s King Lear, there is literal blindness and figurative blindness. In act 3, scene 7, Gloucester is physically blinded after Goneril orders Cornwall to “pluck out his eyes.” Gloucester could also be called figuratively blind. Here, blindness is a metaphor for Gloucester’s inability to perceive certain things, like the real identity of Poor Tom.
Unlike Gloucester, King Lear doesn't suffer physical blindness. As with Gloucester, he is beset by metaphorical blindness. Lear's failure to discern between the true love of Cordelia and the superficial love of Goneril and Regan sets in the motion the events that draw out a type of madness.
In Lear’s character, the blindness and madness metaphors entwine. Lear’s lack of perception leads him to divide his kingdom between Goneril and Regan. The ensuing strife compromises the “delicate” king further. The dislocation and disharmony exacerbate the “tempest” in his mind.
For madness to work as a metaphor, one should think about how Lear, for all his stormy behavior, isn’t genuinely mad. He's not literally insane or detached from reality; his conduct is a reflection of his unruly reality. His daughters are scheming against him and Gloucester’s son, Edgar, actually is pretending to be a homeless person. He’s not imagining these occurrences; they’re happening. It's as if Lear's madness is a metaphor for what's become of his kingdom. Of course, if Lear could have seen through his daughters’ sham displays of love, there would have been less to be mad about.