"Mad"ness of King Lear

For being the Shakespearean play I favor the greatest, I actually found it difficult to articulate my impression of the text and to sit down and post a blog on it. Without exposing a great remainder of the play for those who have yet to read the entire play, I’ll simply focus on Lear as a character.

When Lear is introduced with his daughters, he explained that he has decided to divide the kingdom before death came knocking on his door, and also to curtail any future disputes that would occur of the process of who should rule. He asks his three daughters “which of you shall we say doth love us most?” (1.1.49); Goneril and Regan fawn over their father, will Cordelia is more sincere, stating she loves him the way a daughter should love her father, no more, no less, noting that her sisters would have no love for their respective husbands if they truly loved their father the way they said they did. Disapproving of Cordelia’s inability to kiss up, he revokes her rights and property. It is quite apparent through Lear’s actions that he is more concerned with appearance then with genuineness and reality; he made it apparent that Cordelia was not only his youngest but also his favorite, so it seems almost inconceivable that he would disregard a favorite child so easily.

Another trait of King Lear I would like to focus on is his sanity. There are verbal indications that Lear is starting to subtly go “mad”, and it becomes quite apparent with his actions of dividing the kingdom before his death and seeking his daughter’s (mainly Cordelia before her disinheritance) to care for him in his increasingly fragile state. For my critique of Shakespeare as a playwright, I feel that Lear’s “madness” is a great example of humanity in his literature, bringing a true sense of realism to his texts.

I would like to continue on the subject of Lear’s sanity however I feel it would spoil the experience of the play for my classmates. I am eagerly awaiting my next response as it will still be on King Lear.

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3 thoughts on “"Mad"ness of King Lear

  1. Jeff Battersby

    Aimee,What a great look at the play thus far! I, like you, wonder whether Lear is at the edge of madness or at the very least senility. Whatever the case, it appears that his sole intent has nothing to do with logic or reason and, as you said, his decisions seem to be based purely on appearance and not substance.The way he treats Cordelia saddens me. She, of all the sisters, is truly the most faithful, the most honest, and thereby, at least in this play, she seems to be the one that truly loves her father, not for what he can give but for who he is. Which makes me think that perhaps the Fool in this play is a fool in name only and meant as a glass through which we can view the fool in Lear.

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  2. Caitlin LaShomb

    I took a more bitter side when thinking of King Lear.For King Lear, I can see where the increase of insanity plays a role. I just see King Lear as a complex character because he seems to be stubborn in some scenes but then he switches to wanting to be the nice guy in other scenes. First, like any king, he wants to keep his power. But he does this by making stupid decisions… such as going out into the storm. He thinks that his daughter agreeing to control is not an option, so he makes this dumb decision thinking of it as his way to take control of his life. The other thing that irritates me is how I believe he stated that he wanted one of his daughters to inherit everything and hopefully prevent future problems. At the same time, he has three daughters who would love the inheritance. This is obviously going to cause a problem or a war/fight. As for being the nice guy, he takes pity over the poor people, even though it seems like they never existed to him. I don’t sympathize with King Lear. I find him annoying in the way that he sometimes seems miserable and seems to feel sorry for himself. I guess it is because he is king and if he can’t get over himself how is he supposed to control a large population and territory?I also read the comment before me, and I love that way of thinking about the Fool and seeing the fool in King Lear. I never would have thought about it that way but that is an interesting point.

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  3. Cyrus Mulready

    As Aimee several posters and respondents have noted this week, Lear is a character whose "sanity" comes into question from the very start of the play. Madness in drama is interesting. Since plays are performed, we never get an inside look at what someone is thinking. Compare this to the novel, for instance, where an omniscient narrator can grant us glimpses into the minds of characters. So we are left to judge characters only by what they say, how they say it, and their actions. Shakespeare gives us something very interesting in this play, one character who is clearly playing a madman (Edgar as Tom o' Bedlam) and one who is, it seems, clearly *not* playing (Lear). But what is the difference between these two? Can we ever really know if a person is "mad"? This is just one of the fascinating questions posed in the play!

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