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King Lear | Symbols


Certain objects, events, and states of being have both a literal and symbolic significance in King Lear. Characters directly address the meaning of these items, often repeatedly.


Lear divides his kingdom and sets aside his crown. In Act 1, Scene 4, the Fool shares an extended joke with Lear about crowns. The Fool splits an egg in half, producing two "crowns" (the two halves of the eggshell), which, when considered separately, constitute nothing of great value. The Fool tells Lear that this is what Lear has accomplished by dividing his royal crown between his elder daughters—and that he was an idiot for doing so.

The Storm

Some scenes in King Lear take place during a powerful storm, but that storm is also deeply symbolic of the savage disorder in the kingdom. Lear equates the storm's violence and destructiveness with his daughters' treatment of him.


The inability to see is a motif that appears throughout King Lear. The disability is sometimes literal and temporary—for example, Lear's inability to see through Kent's disguise. Blindness is sometimes literal and permanent, as when the Earl of Gloucester's eyes are gouged out. But these instances of literal blindness are also symbolic, and other instances of blindness are completely symbolic. These include Lear's inability to see Cordelia's love or Gloucester's inability to see his son Edmund's treachery.

Questions for Symbols

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