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Lear’s journey towards madness

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Introduction

Lear's journey towards madness is parallel by another journey -towards wisdom and understanding of his faults. Lear's newly gained knowledge stems from two unlike sources. One is the Fool, who through his songs and jokes gives the king many words of advice. Lear's other mentor is Edgar when he appears before Lear as Poor Tom. Tom, like the Fool, gives Lear advice and knowledge. As a result of his interaction with Poor Tom and the Fool, Lear manages to gain knowledge and display wisdom - often at times when he is at his worst. It is through Poor Tom and the Fool that Lear gains his wisdom. The fool is Lear's first mentor and last friend (beside Kent) on Lear's journey to madness and death. The Fool's wisdom is evident through his jokes and antics: he often incorporates the sad truths of life into his songs and comical stories. One of the Fool's first lessons to Lear is addressed to Kent as a song, where the Fool warns people against being pretentious and boisterous when he sings "have more than thou showest, / speak less than thou knowest..." ...read more.

Middle

Lear gets another chance to express generosity and love towards the Fool when he urges him to enter the shelter before him: "In, boy, go first" (III, iv, 26). Lear realizes that in order to be respected and human he must return love and express his feelings. Possibly the most important thing the Fool tries to tell Lear throughout the first part of the play is the most obvious one - Lear's foolishness. The Fool tells Lear that "Thou shouldst not have been old before thou hadst/ been wise" (I, v, 39-40). Lear takes a long time to realize that but finally does, saying that he was told he "... had white hairs/ in my beard ere the black ones were there" (IV, vi, 98-99). Lear finally admits his foolishness and realizes he fell for flattery. The Fool's role in educating Lear is the difficult task of successfully shaping a king into a higher from - a man. A slightly less influential but not less exotic mentor is Poor Tom when he appears before Lear during the storm. ...read more.

Conclusion

He specifically tells Lear not to "Let... the creaking of shoes nor the rustling of silks betray the poor heart to women: keep thy foot out of brothels, thy hand out of plackets..." (III, iv, 91-93). Lear practically echoes these words when he talks about women: "Down from the waist they are centaurs... beneath is all the fiend's:/ There is hell, there is darkness, there is a sulphrous pit..." (IV, vi, 125, 128-129). He implies that women are a root of evil and should be feared. Although Lear expresses this idea of Poor Tom most clearly it is as important as the other ones. Poor Tom and the Fool act as Lear's "spiritual guides" on his journey towards madness and wisdom. The two journeys are interlaced in such a way that Lear sometimes expressed the deepest pieces of wisdom at his worst times. Poor Tom gives Lear advice and tells him what he must beware. The Fool presents Lear with pieces of truth in his songs and stories. Together these two ragged prophets help Lear come closer to understanding himself and some of the people around him, ultimately turning him into a wise man. ...read more.

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