King Lear's Insanity

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Madness is normally known for ruining the lives of the people that have it and the people close to them. In Shakespeare’s King Lear it initially appears that the same formula is going to be followed with Lear, a broken old king who has lost everything, running out into a violent storm unprotected. However, Shakespeare does something unexpected with Lear’s madness that keeps readers interested in the story hundreds of years after it was written. In King Lear, Lear’s madness is actually beneficial because of the enlightenment it brings him and because of what his madness leads other characters to do in response.

King Lear’s madness is beneficial because of the revelation it brings Lear about his life. Lear showed that he was accustomed to a lavish lifestyle while he was a Goneril’s house. He couldn’t handle having a servant not give him the utmost respect, he refused to dismiss his entourage of a hundred knights, and he had his own private fool to provide a running commentary on his predicament. This coupled with his vain nature meant that Lear never considered how the destitute of his kingdom were doing and that he wouldn’t spare a thing. That is until Lear has gone through the violent storm unprotected and forced to take cover in a hovel. It is hear that Lear’s sanity begins to deteriorate with him saying that “This tempest in my mind doth from my senses take all feeling else save what beats there.” (III.iiii.15-17) It is a direct result of his reflection on his own sanity and his situation that causes Lear to realize that the homeless of his kingdom must be going through a similar experience. It is this that causes Lear to cry out to the world “Take physic, pomp. Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel, that thou may’st shake the superflux to them.” (III.iiii.38-40) This is a beneficial change because it’s a step on his way to realizing that he was wrong about which of his daughters loved him the most. This is because this is the first time that...
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