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Blair Pierce April 11, 1999 MWF 12:00 The Fool: A Motivated Character William Shakespeare is known to be one of the greatest tragic play writers of all time. Shakespeare, the playwright, poet, and actor grew up in the market town of Stratford-upon-Avon. He spent most of his professional life in London and returned to Stratford as a wealthy landowner. He was born in April 1564, and died in April 1616. Throughout his life, Shakespeare wrote numerous plays. One of his great tragic plays is King Lear. Throughout the play, Lear is in conflict with his daughters by the division of his kingdom, while Gloucestor versus his sons over his fortune. Characterization is a great deal of the play. Shakespeare motivates the Fool in the play to be a pure character who makes a great impact on the King and others. The Fool plays a great role in King Lear. Enid Weisford believes that the Fool is an all licensed critic who sees and speaks the truth around him, (162-165). He deals with the tragic aspect of life in its most universal form. The conflict of good with evil, of wisdom with folly, and the hopeless cry for justice are presented by the Fool. He sees the inner truth about the world. Thou wouldst make a good fool, (I, 5, 38) said the Fool to his master at the beginning of his misfortunes. He spoke as a prophet. The king lost everything including his wits, and has now himself become the fool. The Fool shows the sign of real sanity. The solution to the problem is set by the Fool; the problem of moral relativity, Wisdom and goodness to the vile seem vile, filths savour but themselves, (IV, 2, 38-9). Lear s tragedy is the investing of the king with motley, and the crowning Pierce 2 of the Fool, (Weisford 162-165). William Hazlitt agrees that the Fool is of great importance to the play. He feels that the contrast would be to o painful, the shock to great, if the Fool was not part of the play. The Fool adds a sense of relief to the reader. He says that the imagination is glad to take refuge in the half-comic, half-serious comments of the Fool. Lear may well beat at the gate which let his folly in, (I, 4, 171). The Fool shows weaknesses in the old king s conduct, and the consequences of the choices he has to make (Hazlitt 108-109). Melvin Seiden believes that the Fool has a personality, but cannot be perceived as being a person. The Fool s personality cannot be comprehended by the reader. He is involved in many situations, but does not change throughout the play. He expresses himself, but does not really experience feeling. The Fool is a wise man, rational and irrational, young and old, bawdy and chaste, and friend and foe to his master. It is because of what and who the Fool is that we are able to recognize what Lear has become when, for example, the king babbles his confused words about justice, hypocrisy, and reproduction in IV. vi. Even though the Fool has left the play in III. vi. and is never to return again, it is the Fool-principle, we might say, working in and throughout Lear. The paradoxes that inhere in the person of the Fool, reflect, symbolize, or objectify the paradoxes that emerge out of the thought and behavior of the principle characters as they struggle to get what they want out of life and to make sense of what they do, and what is done to them, (Seiden 285-286). Pierce 3 The Fool has a huge part in the play. The fool serves as a relief from the over-strained excitement in the play. Without him, the play would not have any comedy located within it. He is an important part, since Lear inhibits his role. Shakespeare motivates the Fool in the play to be a pure character who makes a great impact on the King and others. The Fool is known to be a wise counselor to the King. He shows a sign of real sanity and speaks the truth with his half-comic, half-serious comments. People today, still need someone to listen to them. If someone has a problem, or needs help, professional counselors are available. Some people such as comics use laughter to ease the pain. Friends listen to each other s problems frequently. The Fool may seem guiltless, but he really cares for his master. The Fool gives his advice on decisions that Lear needs to make. Lear becomes a pupil, striving to learn a lesson. The Fool does not let his master forget whose folly made the problem possible. If you make the wrong choices, consequences must be faced. People make wrong choices all the time, whether it be at school, work, or home. Some choices affect you for a lifetime, while others are only short-term. Whatever choice you decide to make, your life will be affected in some way. Pierce 4 Works Cited Hazlitt, William. Lear, in his Characters of Shakespeare s Plays and Lectures on the English Poets. (1817): 94-110. Rpt. in Shakespeare Criticism. Eds. Harris, Laurie Lanzen, and Mark W. Scott. Detroit: Gale, 1985. Vol. 2: 108-109. Mowat, Barbra. King Lear. By William Shakespeare. Washington: Folgers, 1993. Seiden, Melvin. The Fool and Edmund: Kin and Kind. Studies in English Literature. (1979): 197-214. Rpt. in Shakespeare Criticism. Eds. Harris, Laurie Lanzen, and Mark W. Scott. Detroit: Gale, 1985. Vol. 2: 285-286. Weisford, Enid. The Court-Fool in Elizabethan Drama. The Fool: His Social and Literary History. (1935): 243-70. Rpt. in Shakespeare Criticism. Eds. Harris, Laurie Lanzen, and Mark W. Scott. Detroit: Gale, 1985. Vol. 2: 162-165.


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