My grandfather was an ophthalmologist (eye surgeon) so the discussion and use of eyes and seeing in the play King Lear is particularly fascinating to me. The figurative blindness of the characters to the nature of man is one of the leading reasons the plot moves forward in this play. There is also (spoiler alert) the literal blinding of Gloucester which can be seen as a literal representation of the underlying theme of blindness and seeing within the play.
The play starts with a succession ritual to the kingdom and due to the lack of foresight King Lear has for his action of asking which daughter loves him most the entire plot of this tragedy is kicked off. Lear fails to see the consequences of his actions before it’s too late. Edgar fails to see Edmund’s malicious intent. Gloucester fails to see he’s been lied to by Edmund which leads to him losing both eyes. This ends up being a through line throughout the play where characters misjudge, misinterpret, and fail to see each other at the most crucial moments.
There is a joke that if Queen Lear were a character the action of the play would not take place. I also attest that if there were a Courtly Ophthalmologist (or at least an optometrist) the character sin this play would’ve been able to see and avoid the tragedy of the play. However, there is no Queen Lear. No Courtly Ophthalmologist. Thus the tragedy takes place leading to missed opportunity for reconciliation after missed opportunity for reconciliation. Failure to see, blindness, leads this characters to hubris, jealousy, and, ultimately, death.
The Tragedy of King Lear speaks volumes throughout our time as it shows us what happens when we fail to see one another. When we fail to communicate. When we miss the chances to change course and work together. This play is a mirror of ourselves in our darkest moments but in the end leaves with hope. When the play ends the masks and lies disappear and a new world is on the horizon with people seeing each other for the first time. One of the most tragic lines is “Do you see me?” because the answer is avoided but in the end, throughout the play, the answer is ‘no’.