How Is the Fool Presented in 'King Lear'?

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What is the Significance of the role of the Fool in ‘King Lear’?

`The role of the Fool in ‘King Lear’ is essential to the cause of expressing knowledge and understanding of the plot, and the themes and ideas which Shakespeare used to express his views on the context and nature of the whole idea of rebellion to the laws of primogeniture, and how it related to the present world in which he lived. The Fool helps to develop and expand on theoretical and philosophical meanings of the situations on which he issues a commentary indirectly to the audience. The play, ‘King Lear’ addresses and considers many different themes which would have been relevant to both everyday life and the isolated lives of the royal or wealthy, at the time of the play’s creation, and would probably apply to the lives of the people who lived in the time of the play’s setting. Themes such as the controversy around primogeniture, illegitimacy, sight and blindness, foolishness, and the struggle power total power over others and the desire to take control over others to do their bidding, which stands out well among others in this particular plot, and frequently in other Shakespearean plots. In addition to adding a comic sense to the play, as the name suggests, the Fool helps to involve the audience more, as his speeches reflect a narration, which naturally give the audience more information about the nature of the plot. The Fool appears to be a more abstract character, having little physical involvement in the play, and no effect on the plot’s outcome, and he doesn’t express emotions or any personal relationships with other characters. Instead, the Fool is symbolic of morality and decision-making; the Fool takes note of characters’ actions and decisions, analysing and criticising other characters, such as Kent and Lear. The Fool is significant, as Shakespeare has used the Fool to represent the reality of the play, interpreting situations in a true light, and foreshadowing events. Despite the Fool’s relatively short life-span in the play, he has an impact upon the play far beyond his status as a character.

In the Fool’s appearance in the play, in Albany’s palace, he establishes himself as a quick-witted and comic character as he makes his first comment to Kent, ‘Let me hire him too: here’s my coxcomb.’ Implying to Kent that he is a fool for following Lear and offering him service, reinforced by the line, ‘of thou follow him thou must needs to wear my coxcomb’. This demonstrates the Fool’s ability to deliver penetrating comments, shrouded by a thin cloud of humour to hide the sincerity of the lines he delivers. An example of the Fool’s foreshadowing of events arises when talking to Kent, ‘Why, this fellow has banish’d two on’s daughters, and third a blessing against his will’- this shows the Fool’s ability to predict; he tells Kent that Lear has ‘banish’d’ Regan and Goneril by giving them land, and blessed Cordelia by sending her away; the complete opposite of how others would interpret the situation. The Fool predicts that giving Goneril and Regan land will actually distance them so far away from Lear that he will never have a close relationship with them again, and the Fool knows that they have no intention of returning to Lear’s side. However, the fact that the Fool believes Cordelia has been blessed by being sent away against her will as it means she will be away from danger of the imminent conflict between Lear and his other daughters. Even at this stage, the Fool has predicted the chaos that will overcome the kingdom as a consequence of Lear’s division of the land. It is ironic that the Fool can refer to Lear as a fool so comfortably, ‘All other titles thou hast given away; that thou wast born with.’(responding to Lear’s question, ‘Dost thou call me fool, boy?’) He tells Lear he was born a fool, equipping the point that Lear is more a fool than the Fool and has been one for much longer. After the Fool’s apparently pointless piece of poetry,...
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