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How does Shakespeare explore madness in King Lear in Act 3 Scene 2?

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Introduction

´╗┐Explore the ways in which Shakespeare presents madness in this passage. In your answer you must consider how the playwright uses literary, linguistic and rhetorical devices and conventions to create specific dramatic effects. (48 marks) This extract occurs in Act 3 Scene 2 soon after Lear?s two older daughters throw him out of the palace into the storm, depriving the king of warmth and shelter. This results in Lear?s descent into madness as he furiously wanders the countryside in the storm. Shakespeare depicts Lear?s madness by having him ask Edgar ?didst thou give all to thy daughters?? which demonstrates to the audience that Lear sees Tom?s madness in himself, who is also clearly depicted as mad in order to conceal his identity. The lack of logic employed by Lear in assuming that this is the most likely cause of Tom?s madness illustrates that he is also distanced from reality, further highlighting his madness. ...read more.

Middle

The word ?traitor? creates the impression that Lear is still behaving like a King, despite his clear loss of power by his two daughters. This shows that he is detached from reality and still doesn?t fully realise his situation, perhaps due to shock, therefore he is perceived as mad. Shakespeare also illustrates Tom?s crafted madness in this passage. For example, Tom reiterates ?Poor Tom?s a-cold? which shows his madness through the childish phrasing. Shakespeare also has Tom refer to himself in the third-person in a distinctive childish way, as is the lyrical convention of prefixing words with ?a.? This sense of childishness shows Edgar?s decline in status as well as his crafted descent into madness in order to conceal his real identity to the other characters. Moreover, this sense of childishness is a reoccurring motif, for example, when Edgar says ?Alow, alow, too, too!? The lack of coherence in this phrase is a clear sign of madness portrayed by Shakespeare. ...read more.

Conclusion

Lear?s thoughts are further explored when Shakespeare writes, ? is it the fashion that discarded fathers should have this little mercy on their flesh? Judicious punishment? The use of ?fashion? reflects his previous criticism of Regan?s vanity. This implies sympathy as it highlights his emasculation. This is also shown through the word ?discarded? not only dehumanises him, but ties in with Regan and Goneril?s greed for wealth and possession. When Shakespeare writes Lear talking about ?little mercy on their flesh,? he could be alluding to revenge on his daughters. This ties in with Lear?s given circumstances as he is evidently angry through the portrayal of his madness. This is supported by Shakespeare adding ?judicious punishment? which could show his counter-thought favouring justice not revenge. This foreshadows the mock-trial later in the act, and helps the audience to gain a clearer understanding of Lear?s thoughts towards his madness. ...read more.

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