A recurring theme throughout the play is the sense of sight, and perception,
and the various players’ abilities to judge character.
There are numerous quotations referring to this theme (see questions at end
of this Wolfnote), but in the initial scenes we are aware of this symbolism. We note Lear’s inability to see through his oldest two daughters’ false flattery, and failure to recognize Cordelia’s true
affection for him. Similarly, Gloucester and Edgar fail to recognize Edmund’s villainy.
To emphasize this point, Gloucester has his eyes gouged out to be a lasting reminder of his lack of vision. Lear, we learn, has failed to recognize the plight of his people and only truly sees what their existence is like when he is brought down to their level.
We also note that Lear fails to see the wisdom in the advice given to him
initially by Kent, and then later in the play by the Fool.
Gloucester too undergoes a change and views the world and those around him
in a truer perspective once he has also suffered. Edgar uses Gloucester’s lack of sight in order to bring about the regeneration of his father.
The consequences of Lear and Gloucester’s inability to see the world
realistically culminate in the deaths of so many towards the end of the play, including them.