Blindness in King Lear

Goneril in many ways resembles her father throughout the play. Parents often give their children their traits through generations and this is evident between Goneril and her father lear in “King Lear”. Goneril is the eldest and debatably the evilest of Lear’s daughters, as she declares her great love for Lear in exchange for a portion of her father’s kingdom. Throughout the play, Lear and Goneril are seen alike by means of the motif of blindness that links them together as a father and daughter. Primarily, Goneril is not literally blind and so does Lear, yet they are blinded by their actions and personalities.

“Sir, I love you more than words can wield the matter;

Dearer than eye-sight, space, and liberty;

Beyond what can be valued, rich or rare;

No less than life, with grace, health, beauty, honor;

As much as child e’er loved, or father found;

A love that makes breath poor, and speech unable;

Beyond all manner of so much, I love you. (I.I.55-61) (Goneril)” 

The motif in this example and in Goneril’s example is literal than figurative. Goneril is expressing her false love for lear.  Lear has asked his daughters to tell him how much they love him; whoever loves him most will receive the most share of the kingdom.  Goneril’s exaggerated speech is false and unnatural.  She compares her love for her father to eye-sight, something that should not have a value set in place.  

This same exchange of love is where we see Lear’s act of blindness. 

“Winter’s not gone yet, if the wild-geese fly that way.

Fathers that wear rags

Do make their children blind;

But fathers that bear bags

Shall see their children kind.

Fortune, that arrant whore,

Ne’er turns the key to the poor.

But, for all this, thou shalt have as many dolours

for thy daughters as thou canst tell in a year. (II.IV.52-60)(Fool)”

Now that Lear has given up the kingdom, Goneril and Regan do not care about him anymore.  Before, when he had the kingdom, they told him lies about how they loved him.  Since he has nothing, they do not care for him nor see him. He was blind to the fact that they tricked him into giving away the kingdom. 

“I remember thine eyes well enough. Dost thou squiny

at me? No, do thy worst, blind Cupid! I’ll not

love. Read thou this challenge; mark but the

penning of it. (IV.VI.152-155) (Lear)”

Lear trusted his daughters with the kingdom and they betrayed him.  Lear refers to Cupid as being blind, for falling in love with his unloyal daughters in the first place.    

One thought on “Blindness in King Lear


    I liked reading your analysis, and I didn’t even notice that line when Goneril is confessing her love to her father about eyesight. That is a subtle way to mix the motif in, and I appreciate your post for displaying that motif for everyone to see.


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