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The Role and Function of the Fool in King Lear

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The Role and Function of the Fool in King Lear

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  • September 5, 2006
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Explore the role and function of ‘The Fool' in ‘King Lear'

The Fool in ‘King Lear' is a William Shakespeare creation. Shakespeare has the ability to reveal a human character with an exceptional use of language. He allows us to see more than just words on the paper; we're given a multi dimensional insight into a character. Usually his characters aren't as straight-forward as black or white, they are invariably more complex. Edmund for example, it's easy to present him as the villain but Shakespeare also shows us a sorry side to him as he attempts an apology before he dies. Shakespeare has given us concrete images of things that are inexpressible, such as love. To articulate a multi- faceted view of a person and present it concisely with words is certainly a gift. The Fool himself is one of these characters; he is not simply there to serve one purpose, but to serve many. He acts as Lear's conscience and trusted guide, yet he is also a critic of Lear, a truth teller. In effect this makes a true friend, however some believe it was the Fool's constant remarks that drove Lear to madness. Some critics argue that The Fool actually is Cordelia or a representative of her. Others consider him to be an aspect of Lear's alter ego. Technically Shakespeare seems to use the Fool as a vehicle for pity or as a dramatic chorus. The Fools songs, riddles and jokes are a source of comic relief, used to break up the intensity of scenes. The Fool appears to have a deceptively simple part in the play when in actual fact his role is of key significance.

The Fool and Lear have a fascinating relationship throughout the play. Lear seems to depend on his Fool increasingly to be his voice of reason or his conscience, because he reminds Lear of all his mistakes and manipulates his feelings into realising them. This is a great irony as the king who is supposed to be wise is in-fact a fool, yet the Fool himself is full of wisdom. The Fool's character is a tool Shakespeare has used to help...