, Research Paper
Pride, arrogance and the refusal to accept reality is a failing in humans. It causes them to overlook the obvious and leads to errors in judgement. In tragedies, this is a leading cause in why the most apparent flaws in judgement are often overlooked by characters. In the play King Lear, by William Shakespeare, King Lear refuses to accept the reasoning that his Fool puts forth regarding Lear and his kingdom’s well being. To some, it is natural to ignore advice from people of a lower social standing.
Reasoning and clear judgement is impaired when the mind is clouded with false hopes and dreams. The Fool, although portrayed as a humorous character in the play, shows great insight into the errors of King Lear. Hidden in rhyme, the Fool gives Lear unheeded advice. This combined with Lear’s lack of foresight leads to his downfall; which Goneril and Regan use to take over his kingdom. The Fool repeatedly voices his concern throughout the first three acts. He says:
“That lord that counseled thee
To give away thy land,
Come place him here by me,
Do thou for him stand.
The sweet and bitter Fool
Will presently appear;
The one in motley here,
The other found out there.”
(Act I, sc. iv, line 145 – 151)
The Fool comically, but with an intention to provoke thought, reveals his opinion towards Lear’s decision. He voices his concern towards Lear’s foolish decision to divide up his kingdom among his two eldest daughters.
He states that there are two Fools in the kingdom; the first being the Fool and the other being Lear. Lear does not take kindly to the Fool commenting on his behaviour, and replies, “Dost thou call me Fool, boy?”(Act I, sc.iv, line 152) The Fool tells Lear that he is disillusioned, and is not thinking logucally and rationally. He replies, “All thy other titles thou hast given away; that / thou wast born with.” (Act I, sc.iv, line 153) The purpose of this statement is to make Lear put everything into persepective as well as to gain his attention.
The Fool then sings to Lear. He attempts to persuade him to listen to reason and concentrate on what mistakes he has committed, “Why thou clovest thy crown I’ th’ middle and gav’st away both parts, thou bor’st thine ass on thy back o’er the dirt.” (Act I, sc.iv, line 164-166) The Fool shows his king the consequences he could face because of his irrational decisions. This also shows the false hope that the king still holds; believing his two daughters will greet him with open arms.
In reality, the Fool is right. Lear has given away everything he owns, and is now in a bad position. But Lear cannot see through Goneril and Regan’s flattery, and therefore cannot make a correct analysis of the situation.
Refusing advice due to stubbornness often leads to irrational decisions. As the play continues, the Fool warns Lear of the deterioration of his kingdom and power. He comments on Lear’s decision to divide up his kingdom, relating it back to his current situation. “If I gave them all my living, I’d keep my coxcomb myself. There’s mine; beg another of thy daughters.” (Act I, sc.iv, line 110-112) The king rejects his petty comments, and pretends it was never said. The loyal Fool does not give up and continues to comment on the folly of dividing his land. He says, “The hedge-sparrow fed the cuckoo so long / That it had its head but off by its young.” (Act I, sc.iv, line 221-223)
The Fool soon displays to Lear the mistakes that he makes in his judgement. He says:
“The man that makes his toe
What he his heart should
Shall of a corn cry woe,
And turn his sleep to wake.”
(Act III, sc. ii, line 31-34)
His poem shows that Lear is now suffering for elevating those not fit for duty before those who are. Lear now has nothing in his possession from his former kingdom, and has left his noble daughter, Cordelia, while giving everything to his two other sly daughters, Goneril and Regan. The Fool soon cautions Lear to lose his stubborn ways. He says, “If thou wert my Fool, Nuncle, I’d have thee / beaten for being old before thy time.” (Act I, sc. v, line 41-42) He believes that Lear has turned old already. Lear has retained all of the stubbornness that is accompanied with old age, but not any of the wisdom. Due to these examples, the Fool clearly displays throughout the play that stubbornness has not benefitted Lear or any others dear to him.
Lear shows that he works in haste and without consultation. He proves that false hopes and dreams can lead to decisions made without proper care and study. Furthurmore, because of stubbornness, rational decision making is hindered. Due to his refusal to taking advice from the Fool, Lear is a man without hope. This mentality of higher station in life is always in the wrong, and can lead only to failure.