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King Lear - Does the Fool present the voice of reason?

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Introduction

Does the Fool present the voice of reason? William Shakespeare wrote King Lear in seventeenth century. It is one of Shakespeare's most horrific and bloodthirsty tragedies, with most of the main characters dead at the end of the play, the Fool included. Many believe that the play is a compound of other texts, some originally written as early as 1135 A.D. The main source Shakespeare used is thought to be The Chronicle History of King Leir, which is very similar to Shakespeare's version, but he changed genre of the play from a tragic-comedy to a tragedy. Shakespeare's main change from the Chronicle History is the ending, in all other accounts Lear is restored to the throne and his daughter's lives are spared, instead Shakespeare makes Goneril and Regan's jealousy of each other the cause of their deaths, and the political misconceptions between the other characters the cause of death for Cordelia. Lear also, in Shakespeare's version dies, for no apparent reason other than that he has given up to all of the hatred and pain surrounding him. Apart from the changed ending to other scripts, Shakespeare's main change is that of the introduction of the Fool. The main role of the Fool in King Lear is to parallel character of a court jester, or so he is seen to Lear, other characters and the audience. As Shakespeare's plays were meant to be seen on stage, and performed for entertainment, the Fool's appearance is of great significance to the play and how he is seen to others from the stage can show his real meaning and his true character. ...read more.

Middle

"Yes indeed, thou would make a good fool" This is showing the role reversal to the extremes. But also for Lear, the Fool is an accessible form of entertainment, which answers to Lear's beck and call and does not answer back, or so Lear thinks. Lear does not expect the Fool to tell him things that he does not want to hear and he certainly does not expect to be comforted by someone who he believes to be mad. "If thou follow him, thou must needs wear my coxcomb, how now nuncle? Would I have two coxcombs and two daughters" The Fool's response to Lear's actions over his dividing of his kingdom, here the Fool is saying to Lear that he is an idiot, and if Lear continues to act this way then he might as wear the Fool's coxcomb and become as bigger Fool as he is supposed to be. For many other characters in the play, the Fool holds no significance. He to them is insignificant; he has no valid opinions, not thoughts and no intelligence. Of course none of this is true, but that is the irony of the Fool, by the end of his play he is the only character left with any of these traits, although he disappears before the final act, his thoughts are carried through with both Edgar and Lear, in their thoughts and their actions. The Fool's replacement by Edgar, in disguise as a madman, also shows the overwhelming need for only one mad person in the play; here Edgar carries through the Fool's actions and Lear accepts Edgar as this. ...read more.

Conclusion

He frequently condescends to other characters and criticises them for their poor decisions and actions as he is not involved with any of the other plot lines and watches intently from the sidelines. "Why to one's eyes of either side's nose, that what a man cannot smell out, he may spy into" The Fool does not only speak the truth to Lear, he also gives him advice on different situations, but with Lear's reluctant ness to not see problems and the Fool's poor position of a supposed madman, the advice is taken lightly and with no guts. "..I can tell why a snail has his house. Lear: Why? "Why, to put 's head in, not to give away to his daughters and leave his horns without a case" Here, the Fool is giving Lear the most useful piece of advice that he will receive in the entire play, he uses the metaphor of a snail to show Lear how he is viewed to other characters as small and weak, but also telling Lear that his decision to divide up his kingdom was not a wise one. The Fool does present the voice of reason because he is the only character who is able to see every situations from every angle and able to weigh up the plusses and minuses before making a decision, he is also the only character to evolve through the play with is eyes fully open and an insight into anything and everything. ...read more.

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