The role of the Fool in King Lear

Essay by rs350 February 2009

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In King Lear the “fool” is one of the more interesting characters. He is the akin to the king's clowns however he has the right to speak freely, insulting the king whenever he feels like. Apparently the king enjoyed this. In the play the fool serves as the candid voice of truth for the King and also stands in as Cordelia, representing the opinions she would have taken had she been present.

The most obvious role of the fool is the voice of truth. This was somewhat the stereotypical role of fools in media at this time. From almost the very start the fool pervades the scene offering witticisms and criticism of the Kings "foolish act" telling him that he was wrong to deny Cordelia a share of the kingdom, the position that we as listeners take. The fool is constantly giving Lear subtle and not so subtle hints, when they first encounter Kent/Caius the fool ridicules him, Ben Schneider says the significance of this is that "By ridiculing Kent/Caius' lack of self-interest, the fool calls attention to his constancy, the virtue that really entails all the rest.

One must be the same inside and out, which is integrity, and the same today and tomorrow, which is constancy, or else one is a liar, not a plain dealer. Whatever befalls, the constant man never changes his course; he pays no attention to wind shifts."(Schneider, Ben Ross. page 4)As well as the voice of truth the fool also plays an important role as a sort of stand in for Cordelia, representing the positions that she would have probably took had she been a part of the action. There are many connections between them, the right from the very start equates Cordelia with a fool; when she fails to pronounce...