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Discuss the notion of madness in King Lear.

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Discuss the notion of madness in King Lear. In King Lear, there are two types of madness, real and feigned madness. King's Lear madness is real where as of Poor Tom's and the Fool it is feigned. At one point, during the play the two converge. Ultimately it is play dealing with madness. King Lear becomes mad as a result of his character, his rashness and vanity and due to circumstances. (His two daughters who try to deceive their father). Lear wants power without responsibilities and he hungers for assurances of devotion. King Lear is used to flattery and so is deceived by his daughters inflated speeches and his vanity does not make him realise that Cordelia is honest and her love is sincere and consequently he banishes her. Lear falls mad as a result of his misuse of power. The ingratitude of Goneril and Regan make Lear go mad. Goneril is sick and tired of her father as she accuses him that due to his character, the knights are behaving in an intolerable way, and suggests that disciplinary measures have to be taken. Lear is shocked as he answers her, 'Are you our daughter?'. Lear puts on an act, as a means of expressing his horror and astonishment and these are signs of madness. The phrases, 'Does any here know me? This is not Lear/ Does Lear walk this? Speak this Where are his eyes?' ...read more.


The king's social conscious begins to works, as in his madness the king becomes social revolutionary and from such phrase as , 'Is man no more than this?' one can confirm it. He says that, if the rich were to expose themselves to what the poor feels, they might give what they don't need to the poor and the world would be more just. The king starts identifying himself in Edgar (Poor Tom) and since poor Tom represents the people, the king realises that he has done nothing for them. Edgar's nakedness makes him present himself as a symbol of the poor man, and Lear can only understand himself, if he is like poor Tom, the unaccomodated man, and so understand the human condition this way, and this can occur only he thinks, by being naked too. In Lear's madness, Poor Tom is taken as a 'philosopher', on the assumption that it is someone dejected like him who can instruct him on the nature of man. When Lear puts up a mock trial, he puts himself as a judge as there is the notion of the daughters getting what they deserve. King Lear in his madness, still wants a sense of order. He wants justice. Lear is lost as he starts to talk to himself and starts having hallucinations. He imagines a joint-stool is Goneril and accuses 'her' of kicking him. In his madness Lear thinks his eldest daughter has escaped from the 'courtroom' and screams for her to be apprehended. ...read more.


/ All thy other titles thou hast given away; born with.' He tells the king that he is fool as he depends on his daughters and that he is a fine guy when he didn't depend on them as for the fool, Lear has become 'an O without a figure.' Albeit the fool was allowed to take considerable liberties in his jesting, he would be whipped if he went to far and Lear threatens the fool to moderate his language. The fool points out to Lear, that he has been reduced to nothingness like a sheal'd peascod. The fool is wise in his foolishness. The fool's madness with all his songs and riddles, provides comic relief. Another feigned madness is Edgar's fake madness (Poor Tom). Edgar disguises himself as a lunatic beggar and is alone, out in the countryside. Edgar's feigned madness makes him understand life, as he becomes reliable on charity and he becomes aggressive with himself. He has made a journey of self-discovery as right through the play he changes from the ingenuous and artless Edgar of the early scenes. In the last scene of the play, Edgar plays the role of the avenger as he revenges himself of all his father's sufferings, which are caused by Edmund. At the end, Edgar shows traits of a 'fair and war-like' individual, and wounds his brother. Through the image of madness the reader comes to a fuller understanding of the play. We get to understand more the notion of tragedy and comprehend the intense suffering of King Lear. Aloysius Bianchi 6th Form (A) English ...read more.

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