Shakespeare provides an assortment of characters in King Lear. These colorful players are categorized as being either: a major character, a minor character or a foil character. In King Lear, there is more to the fool then what is portrayed. A fool is suppose to be a playful jester, someone without a reason with the sole purpose to entertain an audience. Lear's fool is a mysterious character that appears only for a short while. Within that time frame, the fool serves an important purpose.
The fool a foil character that provides comic relief. The fool also portrays Lear's decent into madness through the foreshadowing of Goneril and Regan's treachery. King Lear is a king who has lost his reason. Unlike Lear, the fool (the apparent " crazy jester") is the only one who appears to show any wisdom at all. The only problem is that no one takes the time to listen to the fool.
When the fool tells Lear about the first mistake he has committed, Lear does not pay any attention to the fool. Thou hadst little wit in thy Bald crown where thou gav " st thy golden one away. If I speak like myself (like a fool) in this, let him be whipped that first finds it so. 0 (I.
Iv. 166-169) What the fool is trying to say here is; since Lear gave away his power before he died, Lear is a fool. Lear is a fool because; he went from having everything to having nothing. This quote clearly expresses the fool in his true purpose. The fool is giving a piece of wisdom to Lear through jokes. The "boy" (another word used to call Lear's fool) is surpassing his master.
The fool reflects everything that Lear is not. While Lear stands in the official place of power, he is blind to what is really going on around him. The only character that expresses the truth to Lear is the fool. Another example of the fool's contrast to Lear is when Lear is hiding from Cornwall's soldiers. When the king and the boy are together the king confides in his fool. " My wits begin to turn" (III.
ii. 67). When Lear says this, Lear recognizes he is going mad. This quote shows the boy surpassing Lear in "wits" because; the fool is not mad, Lear is. The character of the fool is not without irony. A fool is not meant to give reason or advice to their masters nor surpass their masters in any way either.
What one finds intriguing is the symbolism of the fool. The fool may represent Lear's reason... how ironic that a fool, of all characters symbolizes the very thing the fool must not have... reason.
Although the fool does provide Lear with bits and pieces of knowledge; the fool provides these fragments of wisdom through jokes and insults resulting in the development of the play. When the fool and Lear are alone together, the fool tells him, Why, to keep one's eyes of either side's nose, that what a man cannot smell out, he may spy into. (I. V. 22-24) When the fool says this to Lear, the fool is giving Lear a hidden message in the form of a joke or riddle. The fool is also a direct link from the play to the audience.
The fool is saying that whatever men can not smell out meaning; what they can not sense they usually will see with their own eyes. This quote also refers to the theme of blindness since Lear now realizes his daughters' true love... power. Aside from riddles and jokes, the fool also insults Lear.
While Lear is at Goneril's house the fool appears to insult the king. The fool points to Lear and says "That's a sealed peas cod." (I. iv 205). The fool does this to show the audience that the king is still blinded to the truth brought on by the horrible mistakes he has committed.
The fool also portrays the king's descent into madness. Due to the huge mistakes Lear has committed; his once believed loving daughters drive the poor king mad. Lear's first mistake was giving away his power and banishing his most loyal subjects. Although the fool is a minor character, the fool still provides an important role. The fool guides the audience into the heart of Lear's madness. When Goneril and Regan team up together at Gloucestor's home, and strip Lear of his little remaining power.
The mistreatment towards Lear causes the easy-tempered king to go into a rage. This works to the women's advantage. Both Goneril and Regan know of their father's weakness and play upon it. Between the two of them they cut down Lear's number of servants with the excuse of Lear not needing any servants to begin with. When Lear is traveling to Regan's house, the fool comments on the harsh treatment of Goneril towards her father. The fool also foreshadows Regan's attitude towards Lear.
Shalt see thy other daughter will use thee Kindly; for though she's as like this as a crab's Like an apple, yet I can tell what I can tell. (I. V 14-16) This quote tells the audience that Regan is exactly like Goneril... only using Lear for Power. This quote also foreshadows more ill events to happen to Lear all because the chain of being was broken. Another direct link to the audience is when then fool answers Lear when Lear asks; Who is it that can tell me who I am? (I.
iv. 234) the fool then responds by saying, Lear's shadow. (I. iv.
235) What this quote means is that the only person who can not see Lear for what he truly is Lear. The fool shows Lear's misplaced reason when he answers back. Reason at times can be misplaced. The important lesson King Lear portrays is appearances can be deceiving. Unlike a king, the fool is a mere poor person yet; reason or wisdom does not have a specific shape or form. A fool can create comic relief, advance the plot and serve as a foil character.
Though the fool can also foreshadow events that might not be as obvious; serving as a direct link to the audience.