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Shakespeare sees madness not as a terminal illness, but as a possible phase in a person's development - Discuss with reference to King Lear.

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Introduction

King Lear essay Question 1 (option A) 2. Shakespeare sees madness not as a terminal illness, but as a possible phase in a person's development. Discuss with reference to King Lear. When Lear first realises the extent of General's ingratitude, he cries out, "O, let me not be mad, not mad, sweet heaven! Keep me in temper; I would not be mad!" (Act 1, Scene 5). It is at this point that Lear begins his downward spiral toward madness. Is madness not seeing things clearly? No. Not seeing things clearly is stupidity. Madness is beyond logic, no self knowledge, "Yet he hath ever but slenderly known himself" (Act 1, Scene 1) complete abandonment and no concept of right and wrong. Stupidity is the cause of Lear's madness, and eventually, his ultimate downfall. ...read more.

Middle

Gradually Lear becomes aware of his folly in Act 2, Scene 4. "O me, my heart, my rising heart! But down!". "O, how this mother swells up toward my heart! Hysterica passio, down, thou climbing sorrow, thy elements below. Where is this daughter?" - He's done a stupid thing and now it starts to affect him physically. Development to Lear's insanity occurs in the storm scene (Act 2, Scene 4). "I have full cause of weeping. O fool, I shall go mad!" The storm is a symbol of his deteriorating emotional state. He is lost in the storm and he doesn't know what he's going to do or what he's doing. "I will do such things - what they are, yet I know not; but they shall be the terrors of the earth." ...read more.

Conclusion

(Act 5, Scene 3). While he rages against the elements, the mock trial of Goneril and Regan in the hovel is madness in the sense of his bitter anger at the injustices of the world; a venting of his rage. And he speaks the truth. "I am a man more sinned against than sinning". "Here I stand your slave, a poor, infirm, weak, and despised old man, that will with two pernicious daughters". It is almost as if Shakespeare were saying that in order to achieve a sane and balanced vision of a mad world, one must go mad oneself. From the beginning of Lear's power, to his climax of insanity, he never quite makes it fully back up to the top after he reconciles with Cordelia, making King Lear one of Shakespeare's ultimate tragedies - the forces that drove Lear mad in the first place cannot be undone. ...read more.

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