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King Lear And The Fool Essay, Research Paper

Sebastian Crichton

King Lear and the Fool

There is much to be said of Lear and The Fool. I believe that The Fool in King Lear serves as an unbiased advisor, providing Lear with many lessons that a more powerful being would not have attempted, due to fear of the king’s wrath. The Fool had the ability to be totally honest with Lear, fore he had no rank or status to be stripped of. I find it utmost ironic that the more powerful a being becomes the more he or she must carefully expound their advice. In a world that does not reward truth, truth has a way of being pushed aside.

In order to dissect The Fool’s true function and nature he must be observed in close detail. The Fool is dressed as a poor man, which becomes significant, since a focus of the plot is on the loss of status and position. King Lear employs The Fool to provide entertainment for himself. It was not uncommon for Lear to be at the blunt end of many of The Fool’s jokes. In such fashion, The Fool often revealed much truth during these comedic moments, using base language as a tool.

I would like to explicate a passage to clearly identify how significant The Fool is during the play. In Act III, Scene II the fool addresses Lear to indicate what would truly be just, free of perverse motives. The statement made by The Fool may be classified as a prophecy; additionally, note how The Fool is very wise and in tune with the ways of the world. Do not let his title mislead you, thinking that The Fool is incompetent or without wisdom. During this speech made by The Fool, he states, “When every case in law is right, No squire in debt, nor no poor knight; When slanders do not live in tongues, Nor cutpurses come not to throngs.” The Fool’s, in one stanza of many speeches to Lear, advises the king that instruction should be provided by people who know their jobs best, that poverty should be preserved for the poor, and debt eliminated for the rich. The Fool’s satirically witful message is that the world must escape these typical ways and ceremonies if there should ever be any significant change, or true justice.

At this point in the play, not only does Lear respect The Fool, but he also treats him as a loved one. He expresses the concern for his needs and well being. As an example, Lear states when addressing The Fool, “How dost, my boy? Art thou cold?” The challenge for Lear is to recognize that the highest wisdom often comes in the most humble of forms. The Fool represents this humble form of wisdom exactly.

The Fool often presented serious information in the form of his light humor. For example, when The Fool addresses Lear and criticizes him for splitting his land in two and giving away his power, he did so in a way that was mocking, yet humorous. The Fool makes statements like, “Lear placed the cart before the horse,” implying that Lear had inverted his position in life by surrendering his power, now only to become dominated by his children. Though, one should not underestimate the seriousness of The Fool’s message and role what so ever. The Fool served as an instrument of truth, and for his love was subject to a tragic death.

Let it be known, no change comes without a dramatic impact with reality. An experience of severe loss and suffering leads Lear to recognize the need for change (through his dismal by his eldest daughters, and by the death of his youngest most beloved child.) In a large sense, Lear is the fool, stumbling over himself and his own actions, leaving the audience without the laughter a fool brings, but instead we watch in pity for a poor old foolish man.


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