Wednesday, July 13, 2011

symbolism in king lear

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Eye Symbolism in King Lear

Lear’s problem or internal conflict in the play, King Lear is determined by his sight and its poetic use which provide the evidence of the thematic kinship between himself and other persons in the play. His madness pattern is enhanced by the support of sight or eye symbolism, which exhibit Lear unwilling to see facts. This begins at the beginning and progresses until his enlightenment, eventually answering his struggle to see or understand what his daughters have done to him.

Early in the play an angered Lear orders Kent to get “Out of My sight” (Act1Scene1).

These words are used for a purpose. Kent replies, “See better Lear and let me remain the true blank of thine eye” (Act1scene1). Kent realizes what is happening to Lear, however Lear does not. His vision is questioned. Kent replies again when Lear swears by the god Apollo “Thy swear’st thy Gods in vain“ (Act1Scene1). This episode is replayed with variations later in the play. Lear cannot recognize Kent physically as before he could not see Kent morally, when disguised as Caius (Act5scene). Kent cannot aid Lear in Act 5 in the same way he could not at beginning of the play. Kent comments, “All’s cheerless, dark and deadly” (Act5scene). The meaning of Lear’s words extend far beyond the context; they call into play the idea that he who is sure of eyesight needs to question it. But, the person with the dull sight in the world may see well within. If Lear is unclear about physical identities he is probably straight about moral identities.

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Sight imagery shows that Lear recognizes Cordelia for what she stands for. Lear says at the beginning of the play, “Have no such daughter, nor shall ever see that face of hers again” (Act 1scene1). He is kind of banishing a part of himself in banishing Cordelia and this determines himself to be blind. Her face becomes a symbol of value worth having and Lear realizes he wants to see that face again and at the end of the play, he passionately studies it looking for signs of life as she lays dead in his arms. He says, “Lend me a looking glass” (Act5scene), referring to what seems like a reflection of his life. Just before he dies, Lear strains, possibly convinced that he does see some life ”Do you see this? Look on her, look, her lips. Look there! Look there!” (Act 5 scene ). The hurried searching of her face, which he had once said he would never see again, is a symbol of how his seeing has improved. So in terms of the entire book, Lear’s sight was almost gone, or he was blind for instance, but as the play progressed he realized eventually his internal conflicts, and regained his sight, to see him self and what the world really is.

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