King Lear: the Role of the Fool
In the play King Lear, by William Shakespeare, there are many intriguing characters. Perhaps the most intriguing of them all is the fool. The fool seems to exist outside the play appearing and disappearing without warning. The fool is, however, a necessary character to the evolution of Lear's character, since he is the personification of truth and reason. The fool serves to show Lear how he is going insane, as well as to attempt to delay this inevitability. The fool also demonstrates to Lear the truths about people around him, and tries to point out what treachery and deceit they wish upon him. When Lear is too far-gone to heed the advice and knowledge of the fool, he vanishes without a trace no longer useful, or needed.
Right from the beginning of the play Lear shows sings of insanity. Dividing up his kingdom, for the reasons he stated, may seem to be a wise thing to do. Not trusting Cordelia, however, is a sing of insanity, as she is the only daughter who truly loved him. The fool, throughout the entire time he is in the play, is attempting to point out these insane actions and delay Lear's insanity as much as he can. The fool, however, does not tell Lear directly that he is going insane, "Then I prithee be merry. Thy will shalt not go slipshod"(I. IV. 11-12). The fool uses riddles and jokes to convey his message to Lear. Even when Lear's insanity was causing the fool discomfort,
Blow winds and crack your cheeks! Rage! Blow! Your cataracts and huricanoes, spout till you have drenched our steeples, drowned the cocks! You sulph'rous and thought-executing fire, vaunt-couriers of oak-cleaving thunderbolts, singe my white head (III. II. 1-3),
the fool stayed by his side and tried to convince Lear to go inside, "O nuncle, court holy water in a dry house is better than this rain water out o'door" (III. II. 10-11). He doesn't care about his well being he just wants to help the King any way he can.
The fool also helps Lear by...