Madness In King Lear
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Madness distorts reality, but also reveals truth through wisdom. It is evident through Shakespeares 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. Edgars 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 Lears response that “nothing can be made of nothing” (Kin. 1.4.55) when the fool asks what could be made of nothing. Ignoring the fools 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 oer
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 Lears brusque, ironic dismissal of Cordelia to exile: Nothing. I have sworn. I am firm” (Cahn 94) relating Lears later realization of his own mistake in judgment claiming that he is his own fool. The repetition of the word nothing underlines Lears ignorance to the matter, and his later realization of the truth. Irony is shown through the double meaning of the word kindly, referring to its definition “affectionately”, and after her kind of nature” (Lowers 41). Shakespeare would use the Fool to express rational thought commenting on the present situation, and bringing insight to others.
Knowledge and the understanding of the truth is exchanged from the Fool to Lear by exchange of insanity. The transition of Lears mind from a sane confusion to madness clarity is mirrored by “the Fools function is to tell subversive truths to a court society foolish enough to think its own truths are the truth. Thus he is the outsider-within, living at the borders of accepted reality, issuing alternative reports on what is.” (Calderwood 126). Lear eventually tilts and slips into the same madness of the Fool, relishing in the freedom to explore the contradictive thought of a naturally malevolent society, in the understanding of the truth.
Benefiting from his own madness, King Lear learns wisdom. “Let it have been uttered to the blind, the howling of convulsed nature would seem converted into the voice of conscious humanity” (Coleridge 59) displaying Lears despair and growing madness in the storm of being brilliant. Now consumed by a storm of thought, and deviation from the norm, Lear finds salvation. Deviating from sanity, he has transitioned into a new perspective. Formerly blinded by outward appearance with his physical eye, he penetrates the very bottom of things through madness, and recognizes their true nature allowing imagery as the only adequate form of expression (Clemen 65). The storm shrouds reality and sets precedent for wisdom to emerge in an abstract state of mind.
Humility is brought to King Lear at his lowest point of humanity. “Debasement gives rise to dignity and at the moment when Lear might be expected to be most brutalized he becomes most human” (Dollimore 71), experiencing an epiphany of true understanding. There is a personal