King lear essays on madness


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Madness opens up a new view on life for Lear. Lear can now see beyond himself and his own selfishness.

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Lear appreciates life and understands what it is to have nothing. Lear, however, still cannot accept responsibility for his own downfall. He believes it is Goneril and Regan who have ruined him but forgets who gave them the kingdom to take over. Lear becomes a more humble man and with his new kindness the audience feels some sympathy for him. In madness, Lear becomes obsessive. Lear becomes obsessed with his new view on life, he sees all men as equals, so strips to unify himself with Poor Tom. Lear wants justice for the wrongs he has been subjected to. Lear will never get justice because he does not realise he is partially to blame.

The Theme of Madness in King Lear by William Shakespeare

Lear goes into the storm in search of an answer. Lear believes the storm is in league with Goneril and Regan. The storm helps the tension build on the heath and stresses the height of emotions and the passion. The madness Edgar displays as the character Poor Tom is that associated with sixteenth century mental asylums. This character of a Tom O Bedlam would have been common in Shakespearean times, a former resident of the Bethlehem Hospital mental asylum loose in the community.

The character of Poor Tom in Shakespearean society would be a comic character. People used to mock mad people for fun and entertainment. The Shakespearean audience would have laughed at Poor Tom. His speeches are deranged full of shocking descriptions of mental and physical violence. The fool is narrator of sorts; he speaks of the events in the play in songs and riddles. The fool is very sarcastic and blunt especially towards Lear.

The fools continual mocking of Lear is often thought to push him over the edge. The Fool provides a witty summary of current affairs and reminds Lear of his humanity. Like Lear, Gloucester becomes increasingly generous as he suffers. He shows great pity for Lear and is truly concerned about the evils the old man and Poor Tom face by helping him. Gloucester goes slightly deranged after he has his eyes plucked out, as any man probably would. Edmund shows no respect for religion. Traditionally, in the Shakespearean theatre, scenes of madness were written in prose.

A King would be expected to speak in verse.

When Lear is sane he speaks in verse and when he is mad he speaks in prose. The language used in the play definitely reflects the images of madness used throughout the play. During the play the characters judge and put one another on trial. Goneril and Regan profess their undying love for Lear, but they are insincere and are only interested in their own personal gain. Cordelia, who loves her father dearly, cannot express her love in words, so ends up being banished to France. In Act 2 we see the trial of Kent, despite his innocence.

It seems to be an excuse for Cornwall and Regan to use their position of authority. The mock trial of Goneril and Regan probably demonstrates most clearly the image of madness. The judge is a lunatic and a fake madman and a court jester attend the trial. The only sincere madness is that portrayed by King Lear, who is really fighting an internal struggle to remain sane. Madness is a key theme to the play; it emphasises the tension and brings to life the effects of evil. Madness is treated in variety of different ways in the play, in the depths of depression, in comic relief and in a convincing disguise.

I'm Amanda. Would you like to get a custom essay? How about receiving a customized one? Press enter to begin your search. The fool displays madness for humour as part of his job as an entertainer. Throughout the play Shakespeare also uses a background of bizarre weather conditions to emphasise the theme of madness. Most of the characters apart from Edmund have a belief in the gods; these beliefs can be seen as absurd to a modern day reader. He ends up giving the kingdom to Goneril and Regan, the daughters that love him least and sending away Cordelia, the daughter that really cares for him.

The Earl of Kent realises Lear has not seen the insincerity of Goneril and Regan labelling him as mad for succumbing to their charms. King Lear shows madness in his anger when he banishes Kent for opposing his decisions of dividing his kingdom. King Lear expects obedience from everyone and is used to getting his own way. Lear becomes hysterical with sorrow.


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However, Regan, like her sister, has no plans of allowing Lear and his knights in her house. Lear is enraged by the imprisonment of Kent in the stocks. The imprisonment of Kent unnerves the King. Lear, at this point in the play is now reduced to carrying out his own requests and goes in search of Regan. When Lear returns his anger is increased, Regan and Cornwall have refused to talk with him, Lear thinks they are tricking him.

This is proof of the contempt that Lear is treated with. When Regan and Cornwall arrive, Lear becomes pitiful and pleas to Regan. Lear pleads in his speech, claiming he is a weak, old man begging for clothing and shelter. Lear erratically changes the conversation back to Kent and his imprisonment, indicating the instability of his mind.

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Goneril agitates Lear. Regan becomes harsher with Lear. Lear remains stubborn.


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Lear fears he is losing his wits and curses Goneril. Regan contradicts him and suggests a further reduction to his knight train. Lear tries to remind his daughters of everything he gave them. Goneril and Regan manage to argue Lear out of all of his knights. Lear leaves. During this time on the heath, Lear reaches the height of his madness. Lear refuses to face reality and a world full of feelings and emotions. Lear battles with himself to try to keep his sanity. Lear feels wronged and becomes obsessed with justice.

In his madness Lear begins to see the world differently and takes notice of things he was blind to as king. The storm appears to have no physical effect on Lear because of his inner torment. Lear, at first, believes Tom has suffered from the same plight as him, the ingratitude of his daughters. Lear becomes almost obsessed with Tom and believes Tom holds the answers to everything. Lear even strips away his clothes to make himself more like Tom and to return to basics.

Discuss Shakespeare’s treatment of madness in “King Lear”

By the time Lear meets Poor Tom, he is beyond help. However, in the trial, Lear in his madness, is able to see his daughters for what they really are. When Cordelia returns from France, Lear begins to regain his wits. This return of sanity is not all positive, Lear is now deeply regretful.

Discuss Shakespeare's treatment of madness in "King Lear". - GCSE English - Marked by tiforsite.tk

Through his suffering Lear has received wisdom and understanding. Some people may think he is still mad because these dreams are all an illusion. Madness opens up a new view on life for Lear. Lear can now see beyond himself and his own selfishness.

Lear appreciates life and understands what it is to have nothing. Lear, however, still cannot accept responsibility for his own downfall. He believes it is Goneril and Regan who have ruined him but forgets who gave them the kingdom to take over.

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