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Motiff of King Lear

  • Date Submitted: 01/28/2010 12:23 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 68.4 
  • Words: 650
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One of the primary themes portrayed in "King Lear" is the harsh effects of betrayal by one's loved ones.   Incorporated in this message is the fact that such betrayal can be avoided with sound judgment and temper, and with patience in all decisions.   Shakespeare uses the motif of madness to aid in this message.   Anger and insanity are coupled to illustrate the theme, and they both cloud the judgment of characters in various ways.   A contrast between actual insanity and fabricated madness aids in the depiction of the main theme as well.  

King Lear's temper and madness in the form of anger are shown in Act I, when he is quick to banish Cordelia, under the false impression that she does not love him.   Kent tries to warn him, and says "When Lear is mad, ... When majesty stoops to folly," implying that Lear's rage has blinded him from making the correct decision.   Lear's anger is heightened when Goneril insults him and he decides to leave her castle.   His anger consumes him until he is forced to scream to the skies, "O Let me not be mad... Keep me in temper."   In Act II, after he is betrayed by Regan as well, he says to his servant, "O Fool, I shall go mad."   He is saying that he is so overcome by pain that he will go mad, not knowing that, ironically, his anger will later transform into true insanity.  

Edgar offers a different pathway for the madness motif to unfold.   In Act II, after fleeing Gloucester's castle, he decides to disguise himself as a beggar with no clothes and "lunatic bans."   He pretends to be mad for the majority of the story and in another ironic twist, it is this so-called madman that actually brings many truths to light.

Lear's madness begins to unfold in Act III.   Kent notes in the shelter, that "his wits begin to unsettle."   Scene IV is a blatant display of madness by Lear and the acting Edgar, who converse with each other in incoherent outbursts.   Lear becomes more and more unstable as he uses two stools as models of...


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