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Ways Shakespeare Presents Madness In King Lear

687 words - 3 pages

Another way Shakespeare presents change in Lear’s identity is through the use of mental derangement. At the beginning of the play he is sane but mad. We can see this through Lear’s absurd decisions to decide the next rulers of the country with a ‘love test’. The self-inflated dignity of Lear. Has caused him to place the future of 8th century England in jeopardy in exchange for a mere few praises to affirm his status as king. A king is meant to be wise and partial, yet Lear is contradiction to this as he succumbs to his own egoistic nature, The decision to pass down kingship to his daughters may seem fine on the surface, yet when we look deeper, it is actually an inversion of gender roles and this disrupts the natural order, which leads us to further question Lear’s sanity. Within the proceedings of the ‘love test’ itself, we continue to see the madness in his sanity as he disowns a forthright and ...view middle of the document...

Therefore, through Lear’s sane but mad nature, Lear had banished those who love him most, both Cordelia and Kent, who would protect him form his other two daughter’s impending betrayal. In Lear’s moments of irrationality, it represents a prelude to his madness, whereby in Act II, we can see last traces of his already vanishing sanity when Lear says, “My wits begin to turn.” The dissension into madness ends in Act III as after being thrown out into the harsh stormy night by Goneril and Reagan , Lear becomes mad and breaks in full fury towards the storm, ’Blow ,winds ,and crack your cheek! Rage! Blow!” The significance of the storm not only indicates the beginning of Lear’s madness, it is also reflective of the storm going on in Lear’s mind. Whereby he is unable to grasp reality and thus falls into madness. The jarring elements in describing the storm, parallels itself to the divided kingdom, the disordered family and the demented Lear. Yet, we soon learn that in madness Lear becomes sane. The first instance of his can be seen by his repentance over banishing Cordelia in Act I:”O most small fault, / How ugly didst thou in Cordelia show!” We can see from this that the old prideful Lear that is ‘mad’ is gone. In his madness, Lear acknowledges his folly and regrets his actions. Shakespeare gives him three guides towards truth, sanity and self-awareness. All three guides, Kent, Edgar and the Fool, masked by their false identities, lead Lear to eventually give up his own façade and confront himself. In Lear’s insanity, it made him reflect morally, his was quickened by his sufferings. Therefore, the point of sanity comes through his madness; this can be gleaned when he tells Edgar in Act III . “..thou art the thing itself; unaccommodated mad is no more but such a poor, bare , forked animal as thou art.” From this, we can see that in his madness, Lear is rid of his folly, that he is now ‘unaccommodated’, just a mere man with no status. Thus, it is probable that through his mental derangement, that he is able to empathise with the common folk as he himself is now ‘poor’ and ‘bare’.

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