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The Role of the Fool in King Lear Essay

  • Submitted by: parisjc
  • on June 4, 2014
  • Category: English
  • Length: 2,094 words

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Below is an essay on "The Role of the Fool in King Lear" from Anti Essays, your source for research papers, essays, and term paper examples.

'The Fool is more important to the play than he may at first seem.'
By considering the dramatic presentation of the Fool, evaluate this view.

The Fool is more than just a jester who is present to provide some comic relief in the tragedy of King Lear; like many of Shakespeare’s fools, he is shown as a highly intelligent character who the audience likes not just for his entertainment, but his insightfulness. Therefore, he is central both to the plot, as he criticises and advises Lear, potentially setting his later clarity into the motion, and to the audience’s understanding of the characters in the play.

The first impression most have of the Fool is that his presence serves as form of comic relief, in order to set a lighter tone to the play; however, because of this, his death is crucial to the bleak ending of the play. The Fool uses wit, rhyme and music and criticises Lear in an entertaining way, alleviating some of the tension particularly when Lear has been cast out in the cold night by his daughters. The fool remarks ‘naughty night to swim in’, in which the alliteration bring rhythm to his words, and the verb ‘swim’ highlights the rainy weather and the danger it poses for Lear’s health. ‘Naughty’ also suggests disobedience, which has been demonstrated by Lear’s daughters, however by using it instead to refer to the ‘night’, the Fool deflects the blame and attempts to draw Lear into the present in order to reach clarity. His comedy is so great that he is able to transcend normal societal rules; Elizabethan England was an incredibly hierarchal society in which absolute respect ought to be shown to those in power, and yet although he is a servant, the Fool’s humorous nature seems to exempt him from the expectation of respectfulness. The Fool is not present after Act 3, and his absence removes the comic relief of the play and plunges it into more serious, emotional atmosphere. His absence is therefore used to heighten the tension as much as his presence is to...

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