Shakespeare introduces many themes in his famous play King Lear. The most important theme of the play is the theme of madness. During the play, madness was showed in King Lear, who was a tragic hero. Ahab in Moby Dick by Melville was also tragic hero full of madness, which was driving him to revenge.
In Shakespeare's play, King Lear develops madness right in the beginning. He actually reveals it in Act IV. In this act, King Lear is at the peak of madness, but it is also shown how he came out of his madness in that situation. It is undoubtedly the most important act, because it shows all the phases King Lear has gone through, from absolute madness to him coming out of it along with realizing his mistakes, which is the point of tragic vision. The theme of madness in King Lear is first depicted in the act through Cordelia statement to the guards concerning the condition her father was in. Cordelia says Alack, tis he! Why, he was met even now as mad as the vexed sea, singing aloud, crowned with rank fumier and furrow-weeds, with haddocks, hemlock, nettles, cuckoo-flowers, darnel, and all the idle weed that grow in our sustaining corn.
(Act IV, 1-6) It precisely shows the condition of King Lears mind. Cordelia gives a description of King Lear dressed in flowers, and weeds, and she explains to the guards that he is singing aloud. All of these characteristics are unfit for a king, thus, leaving one reasonable explanation of him being mad, which Cordelia states in her speech to the guards. Further illustration of King Lears madness can be found in Act IV, scene 6. Even though King Lear had already shown the signs of madness in previous acts, the peak of his madness was showed when King Lear was completely insane, because of his garments and his speeches to Gloucester and Edgar. One of his speeches demonstrates madness when King Lear talks about bird and mouse that are not present.
Look, look, a mouse! Peace, peace; this piece of toasted cheese will do it O, well flown, bird! (Act IV, 88-91). It was the first sign and real proof of King Lear being mad. Although King Lear shows signs of being mad, he also shows signs of being sane. This is shown through him knowing the cause of him being mad. If King Lear was completely mad he would not be able to justify the reason for his madness. In Act IV, 96-105 he states that his daughters have done him wrong and shows signs of insanity when he calls Gloucester Goneril.
Ha! Goneril with a white beard? They flattered me like a dog, and told me I had white hairs in my beard ere the black ones were there. To say Ay and no too was no good divinity Go to, they are not men o their words! They told me I was everything. Tis a lie- I am not ague-proof. This quote shows Lears sanity. Lear may have qualities in him to make him seem mad but he possesses sanity, enough to know the cause of his madness. This possession of sanity soon brings King Lear to his moment of tragic vision.
King Lears moment of tragic vision comes when he is rescued by Cordelia and wakes up in her presence. At first, King Lear shows signs of sanity through his speech to Cordelia and Kent about his recognition of him being mad. I feel I am not in my perfect mind. (Act IV, 63) King Lear than recovers enough to know that he is in the presence of his daughter Cordelia, which he did not know before. Do not laugh at me; for (as I am a man) I think this lady to be my child Cordelia.
(Act IV, 67-69). The phase of the end of King Lears madness is when he finally admits he was wrong and asks for forgiveness. Pray you now, forget and forgive. I am old and foolish. (Act IV, 84). This is the moment of tragic vision or demonic epiphany because King Lear confesses to his mistake but it is too late because he has already lost everything.
Nevertheless, in order for King Lear to admit finally his mistakes, he has to be sane. A person has to be in absolutely clear state of mind in order to come up with the notion that he has done something wrong, and being a King with such hubris, to admit that he has done a mistake.