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King Lear Stupidity

There has always been a perpetual jester in a kingly court. Often he has
provided entertainment via his superficial jokes and has won the good graces of
his master by creating an atmosphere of ebullience and joviality. Rarely has
there existed a fool of such vivacious and rudiment cruelty, practicality and
unprecedented common sense as the fool of William Shakespeare’s King Lear.

This fool is blessed with a mellifluous voice of nonsensical reason, which he
uses throughout the play as a function of perpetuating Lear’s madness to the
point of a complete metamorphosis and the conception of clarity of mind. The
fool’s original and supposed role is that of entertainer; although Lear’s
Fool is a more convoluted version, as he is an ironical paradox of love, cruelty
and is filled with didactic perspicacity. One is able to see his practicality,
as well as his affection for Lear when he urges the King to come out of the
storm: “Good nuncle, in, and ask thy daughters blessing.” (III, ii, 11) The
Fool primarily recognizes the severity of the storm, and advises Lear to forget
his pride, so that he may enjoy a comfortable surrounding. “Here’s a night
pities neither wise men nor fools” (III, ii, 12) is the subsequent line, which
contains a subjective insult; whereby the distinction of who is the wise man and
who is the fool is dubitable. A direct affront to the King, one that is immersed
in truth and sagacity, occurs in Act I, Scene IV when the Fool proclaims to
Lear: “I had rather be any kind o’thing than a fool, and yet I would not be
thee, nuncle.” (I, iv, 176) This comment is contrived due to Lear’s folly in
partitioning the kingdom, his relinquishment of his land, and the sanction for
his daughters to take power. The Fool attempts to make Lear ascertain his folly,
but it is too early for such cognizance. When he realizes this, the Fool tells
Lear: “I am better than thou art now. I am a fool, thou art nothing.” (I,
iv, 184) By pointing out his superiority to the King, he cruelly underscores
Lear’s senility, while returning to the continuous theme of “nothing,”
constructed wholly by Lear. The gratuitous quality of his comments, as well as
Lear’s seeming disregard for them and his continuous insistence of treating
the Fool as though he were his child accentuate the Fool’s cruelty. The Fool
acts as a way to quantify the king’s sanity. Lear’s madness (increases)
overtly throughout the play, and the fool’s presence emphasizes the moments
where an alteration in Lear’s state of mind in revealed. At the end of Act 1,
Lear almost strikes the fool after he tells the king: “Thou shouldst not have
been old till thou hadst been wise.” (I, v, 41) The Fool, however, is under
the aegis of the gods as discussed earlier, so Lear would in fact be mad if he
were to abuse him. Lear suddenly backs off, revealing a semblance of some
sanity, and then professes: “Let me not be mad, not mad, sweet heaven!” (I,
v, 43) In a similar declaration, Lear says: “O Fool, I shall go mad.” (II,
ii, 475) after he speaks of committing revenge upon his daughters. The Fool has
been silent for some time, as it seems that Lear owns the necessary insight to
perceive the future – a role which the Fool has previously made his own.

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Lear’s fool is untouchable as the insightful, wise and holy fool who is under
the protection of the gods or some prophetic powers, and is the “all licensed
jester.” Child-like in his character, loved, pampered and indulged he enjoys
the King’s good graces despite his continuous devastating remarks. He often
tells Lear “I’ll teach you” or “you were foolish and still are.” This
omnipresent exhibition of superiority of a jester over his king could be
punished; instead it is embraced. The fool talks to the king as though Lear was
his fool: Fool: Dost thou know the difference, my boy, between a bitter fool and
a sweet one? Lear: No, Lad, teach me. Lear joins in the game by allowing it and
humors the Fool; which equates him with being the Fool’s entertainer, and
therefore the Fool’s fool. Despite this twisted relationship, Lear also acts
as the guardian of the Fool. In one scene, Goneril asks Oswald if her “father
[struck her] gentleman for chiding of his fool.” (I, iii, 1.) Lear institutes
physical violence to protect the precious fool;


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