Madness in King Lear

Topics: King Lear, William Shakespeare, Truth Pages: 4 (1092 words) Published: November 14, 2005
Madness distorts reality, but also reveals truth through wisdom. It is evident through Shakespeare's characterization of the Fool, King Lear, and Edgar in the play King Lear. The Fool provides insight through mad blabber. In a state of confusion King Lear is taught wisdom. Edgar's feigning lunacy creates reason from more madness.

The wise Fool disregarded at first, serves as a misunderstood guide to the characters, foreshadowing the oncoming events in King Lear. He warns that a man should not be susceptible in a world of dishonesty, with a disregard to Christian ethics in exchange for a stronger interest in worldly possessions (Lowers 39). Betrayal and greed will become the focus of evil as they will acquire power and land by deceit. The susceptible good side will remain in the dark and blind to the unforeseen injustice that is foreshadowed by King Lear's response that "nothing can be made of nothing" (Kin. 1.4.55) when the fool asks what could be made of nothing. Ignoring the fool's veritable hints as useless blabber, allows for the evil characters to take advantage of good.

Unrealized messages with deliberate irony are said by the Fool. Through riddle or rhythm his message is delivered, but ignored as just nonsensical. Why, after I have cut the egg i' the middle, and eat

up the meat, the two crowns of the egg. When thou
clovest thy crown i' the middle, and gavest away
both parts, thou borest thy ass on thy back o'er
the dirt: thou hadst little wit in thy bald crown,
when thou gavest thy golden one away. If I speak
like myself in this, let him be whipped that first
finds it so. (Kin. 1.4.57)
It is not clear to Lear of his mistake till when "the Fool even parodies Lear's brusque, ironic dismissal of Cordelia to exile: ‘Nothing. I have sworn. I am firm'" (Cahn 94) relating Lear's later realization of his own mistake in judgment claiming that he is his own fool. The repetition of the word nothing underlines Lear's ignorance to the...

Cited: Calderwood, James L. "Creative Uncreation in King Lear." Modern Critical Interpretations: William Shakespeare 's King Lear. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsa House Publishers, 1987. 86-33445.
Cahn, Victor L. The Plays of Shakespeare. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2001.
Clemen, Wolfgang H. The Development of Shakespeare 's Imagery. Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1951
Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. Shakespearean Criticism. New York: Everyman 's Library, 1960
Dollimore, Jonathan. "King Lear and Essentialist Humanism." Modern Critical Interpretations: William Shakespeare 's King Lear. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsa House Publishers, 1987. 86-33445.
Eccles, Mark. King Lear. Arden ed. Chicago: Scott, Foresman and Co., 1951
Lowers, James K. Cliff Notes on Shakespeare 's King Lear. Lincoln, Nebraska: CliffNotes, Inc., 1968.
Shakespeare, William. King Lear. Ed. Alfred Harbage. New York: Penguin Books, Inc., 1970.
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