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Fools And Foolishness In King Lear

1726 words - 7 pages

Shakespeare's tragedy King Lear is comprised of many distinct themes. His contrasts of light and dark, good and evil, and his brilliant illustration of parallels between the foolishness of the play's characters and society allowed him to craft a masterpiece. Just as well, Shakespeare's dynamic use of linguistic techniques such as pun and irony aid this illustration of the perfect microcosm, not only of 16th century Britain, but of all times and places. By far the theme that best allowed the furthering of this superb contrast between Victorian England and Lear's own defined world is Shakespeare's discussion of fools and their foolishness This discussion allows Shakespeare to not only ...view middle of the document...

This is a prime example of literal foolishness in King Lear, and Edmund is an excellent example of a literal fool, both in his beliefs and his actions...both of which are foolishly evil.
Another prime example of literal foolishness can be found in the foil characters of Regan and Goneril, the daughters of the King. These two women, much like Edmund, find foolishness in evil thoughts and evil deeds. As they plot to usurp Lear's power, their foolishness is illustrated in their single-minded decisions. Goneril states to Lear, "Sir, I love you more than word can wield the matter..." in her insidious attempts to gain her father's land (I, i, 11). This is obviously a lie, as the audience can very well see. And it clearly illustrates her foolishness. Not to be outdone, however, Regan endeavors to use the same method in the theft of power from her father's hands. She attests that Goneril has named her "very deed of love" but that...ironically once again, "she comes too short." (I, i, 11) perhaps in this respect, Shakespeare was attempting to draw a parallel between Lear's daughter's, Edmund, and society. He appears to be attempting Another type of fool in King Lear is the ignorant fool. Whereas characters such as Goneril, Regan, and Edmund were fools because of their refusal to follow in the path of good to illustrate the connections between foolishness and the darker side of human nature. The foolish are not necessarily driven to evil, however, the evil are most always driven to foolish actions.
and right, Character's such as Lear and Gloucester fools because of their refusal or inability to see the truth of their stations in life. Gloucester, Lear's foil, puts forth an interesting perspective in the play. His character is presented as one who is blind to that of the truth, and ironically, one who becomes blind in the end. In actuality, it is his blindness to the truth of Edgar's love, and Edmund's greed and apathy that ultimately brings about his demise. When he says, "I have no way and therefore want no eyes, / I stumbled when I saw" he seems to be illustrating his realization at his own foolishness (IV, i, 173). Gloucester illustrates, through this use of verbal irony, that his foolishness lied in the fact that, while he had eyes physically, he never really saw anything (e.g. the true nature of Edmund or Edgar). Another example of Gloucester's foolishness, shown through irony, is the fortune he predicts at the beginning of the play. He says:
These late eclipses in the sun and moon / portend no good to us. Though the
wisdom of nature can reason it thus and thus, yet nature finds / itself scourged by
the squent effects. Love cools, / friendship falls off, brothers divide...in palaces,
treason; and / the bond cracked 'twixt son and father (I, ii, 35).

This statement, ironically, predicts the vast majority of the play with uncanny accuracy. Shakespeare seems to be using...

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