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King Lear Stupidity Essay Research Paper There

King Lear Stupidity Essay, Research Paper

There has always been a perpetual jester in a kingly court. Often he has

provided entertainment via his superficial jokes and has won the good graces of

his master by creating an atmosphere of ebullience and joviality. Rarely has

there existed a fool of such vivacious and rudiment cruelty, practicality and

unprecedented common sense as the fool of William Shakespeare?s King Lear.

This fool is blessed with a mellifluous voice of nonsensical reason, which he

uses throughout the play as a function of perpetuating Lear?s madness to the

point of a complete metamorphosis and the conception of clarity of mind. The

fool?s original and supposed role is that of entertainer; although Lear?s

Fool is a more convoluted version, as he is an ironical paradox of love, cruelty

and is filled with didactic perspicacity. One is able to see his practicality,

as well as his affection for Lear when he urges the King to come out of the

storm: ?Good nuncle, in, and ask thy daughters blessing.? (III, ii, 11) The

Fool primarily recognizes the severity of the storm, and advises Lear to forget

his pride, so that he may enjoy a comfortable surrounding. ?Here?s a night

pities neither wise men nor fools? (III, ii, 12) is the subsequent line, which

contains a subjective insult; whereby the distinction of who is the wise man and

who is the fool is dubitable. A direct affront to the King, one that is immersed

in truth and sagacity, occurs in Act I, Scene IV when the Fool proclaims to

Lear: ?I had rather be any kind o?thing than a fool, and yet I would not be

thee, nuncle.? (I, iv, 176) This comment is contrived due to Lear?s folly in

partitioning the kingdom, his relinquishment of his land, and the sanction for

his daughters to take power. The Fool attempts to make Lear ascertain his folly,

but it is too early for such cognizance. When he realizes this, the Fool tells

Lear: ?I am better than thou art now. I am a fool, thou art nothing.? (I,

iv, 184) By pointing out his superiority to the King, he cruelly underscores

Lear?s senility, while returning to the continuous theme of ?nothing,?

constructed wholly by Lear. The gratuitous quality of his comments, as well as

Lear?s seeming disregard for them and his continuous insistence of treating

the Fool as though he were his child accentuate the Fool?s cruelty. The Fool

acts as a way to quantify the king?s sanity. Lear?s madness (increases)

overtly throughout the play, and the fool?s presence emphasizes the moments

where an alteration in Lear?s state of mind in revealed. At the end of Act 1,

Lear almost strikes the fool after he tells the king: ?Thou shouldst not have

been old till thou hadst been wise.? (I, v, 41) The Fool, however, is under

the aegis of the gods as discussed earlier, so Lear would in fact be mad if he

were to abuse him. Lear suddenly backs off, revealing a semblance of some

sanity, and then professes: ?Let me not be mad, not mad, sweet heaven!? (I,

v, 43) In a similar declaration, Lear says: ?O Fool, I shall go mad.? (II,

ii, 475) after he speaks of committing revenge upon his daughters. The Fool has

been silent for some time, as it seems that Lear owns the necessary insight to

perceive the future – a role which the Fool has previously made his own.

Lear?s fool is untouchable as the insightful, wise and holy fool who is under

the protection of the gods or some prophetic powers, and is the ?all licensed

jester.? Child-like in his character, loved, pampered and indulged he enjoys

the King?s good graces despite his continuous devastating remarks. He often

tells Lear ?I?ll teach you? or ?you were foolish and still are.? This

omnipresent exhibition of superiority of a jester over his king could be

punished; instead it is embraced. The fool talks to the king as though Lear was

his fool: Fool: Dost thou know the difference, my boy, between a bitter fool and

a sweet one? Lear: No, Lad, teach me. Lear joins in the game by allowing it and

humors the Fool; which equates him with being the Fool?s entertainer, and

therefore the Fool?s fool. Despite this twisted relationship, Lear also acts

as the guardian of the Fool. In one scene, Goneril asks Oswald if her ?father

[struck her] gentleman for chiding of his fool.? (I, iii, 1.) Lear institutes

physical violence to protect the precious fool; a severe act of rebuttal in

response to a rather harmless admonition. However, Since only a madman or an

evil person would think of striking or scolding the Fool, it may be assumed that

Shakespeare wished to emphasize that Oswald and Goneril are of that nature. Lear

sometimes threatens to hurt the Fool: ?An you lie, sirrah, we?ll have you

whipped.? (I, iv, 172) but those threats are never manifested. This is also

the first mention of the Fool in the play, which emphasizes his importance and

favoritism from the king, as he obviously enjoys Lear?s highest courtesy and

protection. This is not the same relationship that exists between Kent and Lear.

Although Kent also tells the brutal truth and is often less incisive, he is

shunned and despised by Lear: ?If on the tenth day following thy banished

trunk be found in our dominions, the moment is thy death.? (I, i, 178) This

favoritism parallels that of Lear and his daughters, as though Goneril and Regan

are Kent, and the fool Cordelia. The Fool is an extension of Cordelia, and she,

an embodiment of the Fool. In her absence, the Fool acts in her role of child,

and once she is returned, he is no longer present, so that she may fulfill her

role appropriately. Lear exercises his paternal instincts on the Fool in Act

III: ?Come on, my boy. How dost my boy? Art cold?? (III, iii, 78) Lear

treats him with utter affection and is preoccupied with his well being, just as

he would Cordelia. A psychological analysis of his subversive action would

reveal that Lear?s guilt and regret of banishing Cordelia are manifested in

attempts at reconcilement through the Fool, who is a representative of Cordelia.

Her truancy leaves him void, as she is his favorite and similarly to the Fool,

all licensed in her actions. After her exile, Lear immediately misses her

presence, and since he cannot have the original Cordelia, he calls forth his

fool: ?Where?s my knave, my fool?? (I, iv, 42) Throughout the general

mayhem of the scene and more pressing matters at hand, such as his other

daughter?s refusal to see him, Lear?s main preoccupation is his fool, and he

calls for him five subsequent times. One Knight responds: ?Since my young

lady?s going into France, sir, the fool hath much pined away.? (I, iv, 72)

The Fool?s despair is caused by Cordelia?s absence, which suggests their

separation as unnatural; they are meant to be one, even though they are never on

stage simultaneously. This is also the first mention of Cordelia since the

opening scene, and the Knight?s comment strongly links the Fool to her. The

Fool, as a representative of Cordelia, also acts as a constant reminder of

Lear?s folly in expelling her. In one jesting session, among the Fool?s

various random jokes, Lear comments: ?I did her wrong.? (I, v, 24) The Fool

brings with him a forced sense of realization, which Lear cannot control, so his

mind gives in to the Fool?s subliminal reminders of his folly. The most

obvious connection between Lear?s daughter and his fool, however, is made by

Lear himself at the culmination of the play, when he has already lost both the

Fool, and Cordelia. ?And my poor fool is hanged? (V, iii, 304), Lear

exclaims, referring to the hanged Cordelia in a term of endearment, but also

suggesting the death of the Fool, although his disappearance is never explained

in actuality, and is continually vexing. The Fool vanishes after the mock trial

scene because he has executed his function; Lear has become the fool. He makes

defoliating remarks that are part of a necessary corrective system based on the

purging of Lear?s false pride, partly manifested in his banishment of Cordelia.

The Fool serves as Lear?s teacher in throwing away his false pride and the

delusion of continuous authority. At the culmination of the play, Lear realizes

he must forget this kingly preoccupation and accepts his daughter Cordelia: ?I

am a very foolish, fond old man?as I am a man, I think this lady to be my

child Cordelia.? (IV, vii, 68) He is no longer a King rapt with division,

partiality and the quantification of love, but a father, a subject and a man.

This is the image of a reconstituted land, in which the Fool has no role, so he

departs cryptically and becomes a castaway. In the Fool?s final scene, he

exits holding Lear up: [Exeunt?the Fool supporting Lear.] (III, vi.) A

subjective meaning of this action is Lear and the Fool becoming one, as the Fool

ceases to be the wise fool and Lear becomes the Fool with an incredibly

salubrious clarity and common sense. The Fool?s action is preceded with Lear

uttering his last words of madness: ?So, so, so; we?ll go to supper i?the

morning so, so, so.? (III, vi, 81), nonsensical gibberish, before reappearing

as the newly emanated fool much later in the play; ironically marking an end to

his folly as King, and a beginning of insight as the Fool. A knave and a fool

are sometimes equated to each other in this play, although their actual meanings

differ substantially. A knave is of an evil nature, a rascal or a vagabond while

a fool is a simple jester, supposedly good hearted with a jovial sense of humor.

Lear?s fool, however, is a paradox. Shakespeare always allots more

intellectual ability and shrewdness to the evil characters in his plays that he

does to the righteous. Edmund, for example, is so astute that he practically

causes the audience to dispense sympathy for his atrocities. Since the Fool is

very sagacious, it may be assumed that he is of an evil nature as well; yet he

is the one who ultimately ?saves? Lear by purging his delusions and his

pride from him. It is this differentiation, or lack thereof, that is the partial

cause of such unadulterated chaos in King Lear?s Britain.