In Lear’s speeches trace how he mixes ‘Reason in Madness’
In the beginning of ‘King Lear’ a man is shown of whom is subjected to ‘unruly waywardness’ and ‘unconstant stars’. Lear casts off the two people who are the most faithful to him; Cordelia his caring daughter and Kent his most trusted subject. The cloud of madness then proceeds to overcome him as soon as he relinquishes his power over to his other two daughters, Regan and Goneril, on the basis of their exaggerated love for him; “beyond all manner of so much I love you.” This cloud of madness begins to lift eventually but not until he is once again reunited with Cordelia. His experience of madness teaches him wisdom and he corrects all his previous faults as a result. Several things attribute to Lear’s eventual madness. The Fool, initially, plays a large part in pointing out to the King his foolish mistakes. Even before the onset of Lear’s madness, the Fool is anticipating it; “thou hast pared thy wit o’both sides, and left nothing i’the middle.” Lear’s gradual realization of the disloyalty of his two elder daughters also leads him to anticipate his oncoming madness. Reproaching himself for his blindness, he speaks of himself, “Either his notion weakens, his discenrings/ are lethargied,” and later, “...let thy folly in,/ And thy dear judgement out!” It is Lear’s reaction to Goneril’s refusal to house him together with his whole retinue that marks the first real premonition of his madness, and the Fool suggests that it is his lack of wisdom, which accompanies his old age, that will be the cause of it. Corresponding with Lear’s madness, which is real, the play presents apparent, or feigned, madness in other characters. Kent challenges Oswald, in disguise, for reasons Cornwall cannot understand, for he is not aware of the former disguise. He puts Kent’s provocation down to madness, as it is the only reasonable explanation. Edgar, also disguised in order to escape, takes on the aspect of madness. Edgar has...
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