The Fool and Cordelia: Opposing Influences on King Lear

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Although the Fool and Cordelia are similarly candid towards their King, they never interact in Shakespeare's King Lear, because the Fool is a chaotic influence while Cordelia is a stabilizing force. While the Fool and Cordelia both act in the Lear's best interest, it is not always evident to Lear. The Fool's actions often anger the King, and lead to an increase in his madness. On the other hand, Cordelia's actions more often soothe Lear, and coax him back into sanity. Another commonality between the Fool and Cordelia is their honesty. Both the Fool and Cordelia are frank with Lear, though he may not always appreciate that they do so for his own good.

In Shakespeare's King Lear, the Fool is a source of chaos and disruption in King Lear's tumultuous life. The Fool causes the King distress by insulting him, making light of his problems, and telling him the truth. On the road to Regan's, the Fool says "If thou wert my Fool, nuncle, I'd have thee / beaten for being old before thy time." (1.5.40-41). He denies the king the respect due to him as an aged King, causing the King to wonder at his worthiness. The fool also makes light of Lear's qualms making snide remarks in response to Lear's ruminations. When Lear asks Edgar cryptically, "wouldst thou give ‘em all?" the Fool responds, "Nay, he reserved a blanket, else we had been all shamed" (3.4.69-72). The Fool's snide remarks do little to maintain Lear's fragile control of his faculties. However, the Fool speaks to the king candidly, a rare occasion in Lear's life. Even Kent acknowledges the truth of the Fool's statements, saying, "This is not altogether fool, my lord" (1.4.155).

While the Fool disrupts Lear's mental state, Cordelia steadies him with compassion, understanding, and truth. When Cordelia has rescued the King, she says that "Mine enemy's dog, / though he had bit me, should have stood that night / Against my fire" (4.7.42-44). Cordelia is amazed at her sisters' treatment of Lear...
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