Humanitarian / Literature Essay

The Fool in King Lear Essay

The function of a court jester or fool in Elizabethan times was to entertain other people professionally, particularly the king. Essentially, they are hired for mistakes. Fools might have been mentally impaired teenagers held for the entertainment of the court, or sometimes they were singing or dancing stand up comedians. The fool in King Lear, by William Shakespeare, performs several important roles. Once Cordelia, the only well-intentioned daughter of Lear, is expelled by the king, Fool automatically assumes her position as guardian of Lear. The fool is the king's friend, loyal and honest, and he can point out Lear's flaws in his use of ironic sarcasm and humor. In Greek tragedy, the fool reflects on incidents in the play, the conduct of the king and serves as the soul of Lear. Since he is the only character capable of addressing Lear personally without any risk of punishment, he will regulate the actions of the King.

The Fool is also Shakespeare's last and, at the same period, the noblest creation of its kind; he is by far the most valiant and intelligent of his fools. Two dominant sensation patterns are visible in the Fool. The first is his grief for Cordelia, to whom he is just as devoted as a child. Because my young lady will be leaving for France, the Fool has much' pined away.' This grief is reflected by the brutal blows that, far beyond his conventional right, he deals with the king for his stupidity in relinquishing his throne and for his inability to appreciate his youngest daughter. If it were not for his intent, we would find the Fool to be hardhearted, evil.

Yet, with the old king's growing misfortunes, the Fool's mood changes; solidarity for his old master gives his mind a different direction, and sweets his bitterness. He still plays the fool in the scary night on the heath just to satisfy the king's amusement in the normal way; he is all misery for his sad lord for the rest. He labors over jesting his (the king's) heart-struck injuries. A skillful portrayer of personality is required for the role. Comic actors hardly ever know how to do this either. It's all the worse, as we have somewhat forgotten the perception of this genre, which still existed even in the days of Shakespeare.

Often it seems the Fool kicks a man when he's down, but as the play continues, one feels how much the fool respects his master and how loyal he is. The Fool makes his first appearance in act one scene four where he clarifies his original message to Kent that he considers Kent as the friend of Lear.

Lear, paying Kent says

Lear: Now I thank you for my friendly knave; your service is so earnest.

Fool: Let me also recruit him, my coxcomb is here.

In this, the fool utilizes his coxcomb as a metonymous tool to demonstrate Lear's dumb splitting of the kingdom and Kent's folly throughout his willingness to follow Lear who now has no kingdom or a house. He acts as an impartial counsel delivering several teachings for Lear that would not have been done by a more influential being due to fear of the wrath of the king. In scene one, efforts by Kent to subdue Lear sees him banished; while many indirect critiques of the fool escape punishment. The king could threaten to whip the fool, and beating the king's jester in Shakespeare's days was not uncommon, the audience takes these threats as being empty. Instead, the fool might truly believe that Kent is stupid to follow Lear, and it can be argued that there is little compassion between them as Fool's obliquities and loquacities contrast sharply with Kent's straightforward and clear idiom, the man who will “eat no fish.”

In reality, in this act, Lear hits the height of his insanity, and in scene six of act three carries on a mock trial of Goneril and Regan. This is probably the most insane of all Shakespeare's scenes–on stage we visually see Lear, who's now completely insane, Edgar who is masked and sure to be mad, Kent in costume and Fool who acts like a madman–taken into custody are Goneril and Regan, but then, inside Lear's diseased mind, they escape, showing that reality dents even this, Lear's most unreal fantasies till date. The fool's exit from the play at the height of Lear's craziness may indicate that in the sense of a kingdom where the king is an insane lunatic, he is now unnecessary. In this scene, Lear has so many questions without answers, he hasn't completely understood why all of this occurred. If he could just find the answers to why he was so callously treated by his daughters, he might be able to recover his sanity. The king selects his fool to be among the court jurors, where he exhorts the jurists to “anatomize Regan: see what perpetuates about her heart.” Lear's expressions are so harsh and bitter that even Fool could not respond.

After this scene, the Fool never reappears again. The world has spun upside down, the king has now fallen into utter madness and has gone beyond the help of the fool. He no longer serves the king's intent, and expects both his and Lear's demise with his final line in the play, as he has expressed his fate to this point:

Fool: And by noon I will go to sleep.

Whether the fool eventually dies is never evident, but these lines talk about Cordelia's death:

Lear: And my poor fool is hanged: no, no life?

Once more, Cordelia is parallel to the fool.

It would not be possible to mark all the roles performed by Fool to perform towards his king. His only given brief; a court entertainer-is probably the least relevant of the fool. Fool behaved far more significantly than a simple tool of entertainment, being the informer, friendThe Fool in King Lear Essay, and guardian of Lear. His most significant role was by far that of being his king's moral tutor. A fool shows Lear that human beings can't fully recognize themselves.

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