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King Lear - The Role of the Fool
In Shakespeare?s, King Lear, the Fool plays three major roles. One of these roles is of an "inner-conscience" of Lear. The Fool provides basic wisdom and reasoning for the King at much needed times. The Fool also works as amusement for Lear in times of sadness and is also one of the only people besides the Duke of Kent and Cordelia who are willing to stand up to the King.
The Fool works as the "inner conscience" of Lear throughout the play. The Fool shows Lear the side of reasoning and tries to persuade Lear that it was wrong to banish Cordelia. The Fool only first appears in Act 1, scene four, after Cordelia has moved away with the King of France. The Fool knows that Lear has done wrong by giving all his land away to his to evil daughters, Goneril and Regan, and tells him so in act one, scene four, when he says, "All thy other titles thou hast given away; that thou wast born with." The Fool also warns Lear about Goneril and Regan stating that Lear is now a lap dog to Goneril and Regan, "Truth?s a dog must to kennel; he must be whipped out when the Lady Brach may stand by the fire and stink." The Fool disappears in act three, when Lear goes mad. This shows that the Fool is Lear?s view of reasoning because when a person goes insane they cannot think straight or reason and therefore after act three there is no need for Lear to have a Fool as he is mad.
The Fool also tries to help Lear to feel a bit better about what is going on by putting a humorous spin on the words he is saying. The Fool uses poetry and song to get his view across to Lear. In act one, this is visible in numerous ways. For example, in scene four the Fool sings:
Then they for sudden joy did weep,
And I for sorrow sung,
That such a King should play bo-peep
And go the fools among.
This little verse helps the Fool the show Lear again that dividing his kingdom was a mistake. The Fool throughout this act also refers to Lear as a fool himself and many times offers him his coxcomb.
In King Lear, there are only three people with the ability to stand up to Lear. Cordelia, Kent and the Fool. During the play Lear threatens to have the Fool whipped for what he says, when Cordelia and Kent get banished from the Kingdom for speaking their minds. This just shows the special relationship the Fool and Lear have during the play. This point is emphasised later in the play when Lear shows concern and compassion towards the Fool, "Come on, my boy. How dost my boy, art thou cold?"
The Fool is not just a servant to Lear but is also a friend and the son Lear never had. The name "Fool" means nothing. He is the most intelligent and insightful character in the play and provides simple and clear reasoning for a one sighted King. The Fool is loyal to the bitter end and provides the little bits of humour in this play. He has honesty and integrity that is only found in a few other characters in the play.
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