AP Composition and Literature
October 4, 2011
Sense Through Madness
Although Edgar is not truly mad in the play King Lear by William Shakespeare, he portrays himself as a madman to the other characters in the play when disguised as Poor Tom, and when rescuing his father. Edgar uses madness and mad tactics to save Gloucester, befriend and comfort King Lear, and hide from prosecution. Edgar rescues his father while giving him hope to live and befriends King Lear as Poor Tom.
Edgar saves Gloucester’s life and gives him hope to live. When Gloucester wants to commit suicide, Edgar leads him to what Gloucester believes is the edge of a cliff. Edgar’s response to Gloucester after he asks if he has fallen makes Gloucester believe he is saved from falling by some divine power: “From the dread summit of this chalky bourn … Therefore, thou happy father, think that the clearest gods, who make them honors of men’s impossibilities, have preserved thee” (IV.vi.71, 89-92). Edgar’s actions seem mad and cruel at first, but are then proven helpful for his father by making Gloucester believe he is pushed to attempt suicide by a fiend inside of him that failed by the hands of the gods: “That thing you speak of, I took it for a man. Often ‘twould say ‘the fiend, the fiend!’ He led me to that place” (IV.vi.95-97). Gloucester believes Edgar when he says that “some fiend … parted from [him]” (IV.vi.89,84) so he claims to have heard the fiend telling him to kill himself, therefore convincing himself that he wants to live on. Because Gloucester believes he actually attempted suicide and was saved, he has found a reason to live in that if the gods wish him alive, then surely there must be a valid reason for him to live on. In addition to some divine power wanting him to live, he also justifies living on by convincing himself that he only attempted suicide in the first place because he was pushed to do so by some evil creature with “a thousand noses...