King Lear Question #3: Consider the wisdom of King Lear’s fool. Look closely at the interplay between Lear and his fool and at the speeches of the fool, which offer instruction to the king. Look for connection the play makes between Lear’s fool and the other “fools” in the play – Cordelia, Kent, and Poor Tom. King Lear’s fool is undoubtedly one of the wisest characters in the play. He is not only able to accurately analyze a situation which many other characters are blind to, but he is also able to foreshadow the actions of many characters and many other incidents to come.
The main instruction the fool gives to the king is to beware of doing things that are unnatural, such as giving his inheritance, (splitting his kingdom among his daughters) to his daughters before he his dead. By doing this unnaturally, Lear must face many adverse consequences, such as losing his identity, self-worth, and respect from his daughters. Many connections between the fool and Cordelia, Kent and Poor Tom are evident, mainly because they all remain true to the King throughout the entire play. Also, all four of them are not rewarded for their loyalty in the beginning and Cordelia and Kent are both “banished” from the kingdom by Lear. These four are the true selfless characters in the play, all a source virtue that the other characters lack.
1. “Mark it, nuncle: Have more than thou showest, Speak less than thou knowest, Lend less than thou owest, Ride more than thou goest, Learn more than thou trowest, Set less than thou throwest, Leave thy drink and thy whore, And keep in-a-door, And thou shalt have no more Than two tens to a score.” (I, IV, 115.) -One significant irony in the play is the wisdom the Fool has. This advice the Fool is giving to Lear carries a great weight in foreshadowing mistakes, and solutions for them that Lear will make. -The Fool’s constant advice to Lear goes unheeded by Lear, but ironically is the best advice for him to take. -The main message the Fool is trying to tell Lear is be careful what you give in accordance to what you have. -More clearly, the Fool is warning Lear that giving up his Kingdom (a necessity for Lear) before his time was unwise.
2. “Then ’tis like the breath of an unfee’d lawyer; you gave me nothing for’t. Can you make no use of nothing, nuncle?” (I, IV, 127.) -The Fool’s question to Lear “Can you make no use of nothing .. ” is not really a question concerning what Lear has given the Fool, but a direct question of Lear’s life. He had given away all he had to his daughters, which meant he literally had nothing.
What the fool meant is that having nothing, he (Lear) cannot expect to make anything of it. -The Fool is pointing out to Lear the obvious foolishness in giving away all he had to his two undeserving daughters. -Ironically, Lear truly is the fool in this story, and even more ironically the Fool is one of the wisest characters. 3. “That lord that counseled thee To give away thy land, Come place him here by me; Do thou for him stand.
The sweet and bitter fool Will presently appear: The one in motley here, The other found out there.” (I, IV, 138.) -The Fool is showing the error in Lear’s way. He hinting that whoever put such a stupid idea in Lear’s head should be punished according to Lear’s future suffering. -Also, it is possible the Fool suspects that whoever counseled Lear to make the decision to split up his kingdom among his daughters was in fact an adversary (possibly Oswald) of either Goneril or Regan, and would now be “here”, in life’s favor, while Lear would be “found out there”, outside of life’s favor, more specifically in the rain. 4. “All the other titles thou has given away; that thou wast born with.” (I, IV, 147.) -The Fool is sarcastically speaking his feelings on the foolishness of Lear giving away his inheritance and power too soon.
-He is also stating that Lear is no longer the same person he used to be because he has lost his kingship, which was innately given to him. -Lear’s mistakes leave him in a sort of identity crisis, because all that he used to be related to was taken away when he gave up his lifelong titles. 5. “Why, after I have cut the egg I’ the middle and eat up the mat, the two crowns of the egg. When thou clovest thy crown i’ the middle and gav’st away both parts, thou bor’st thine ass on thy back o’er the dirt.
Thou hadst little wit in thy bald crown when thou Gav’st thy golden one away. If I speak like myself in This, let him be whipped that first finds it so. [Sings.] “Fools had ne’er less grace in a year, For wise men are grown foppish And know not how their wits to wear, Their manners are so apish.”” (I, IV, 156.) -The Fool is clearly speaking the folly of Lear’s ways. By giving away his kingdom, he truly did bear his ass on his back over the dirt. -By splitting his inheritance too soon, Lear put himself in a terrible situation, one which will cause him much suffering, grief, and disrespect from his daughters.
-Lear had no wisdom, wit when he gave away his golden crown because it was a major mistake. -The Fool’s wisdom gives us an insight into what is to come. He already knows how Goneril and Regan will treat their father, and how Cordelia will as well. -The Fool knows that Lear, giving up his crown, just as easily exposed his heart to be shot by anybody. 6. “I have used it, nuncle, e’er since thou mad’st thy daughters thy mothers; for when thou gav’st them the rod and put’st down thine own breeches, [Sings.] “Then they for sudden joy did weep, And I for sorrow sung, That such a king should play bo-peep And go the fools among.” Prithee, nuncle, keep a schoolmaster that can teach thy fool to lie.
I would fain learn to lie.” (I, IV, 169.) -The Fool is speaking of how Lear putting power in his daughter’s actions put Lear in the position of a child, and his daughter’s as his mother. -The Fool is speaking out his sorrow or discontent with the present situation of the king. He realizes that Lear is being played a fool, and it is his own fault. 7. “I marvel what kin thou and thy daughters are.
They have me whipped for speaking true, thou’lt have me whipped for lying, and sometimes I am whipped for holding my peace. I had rather be any kin o’ thing than a fool. And yet I would not be thee, nuncle. Thou hast pared thy wit o’ both sides and left nothing in the middle. Here comes one o’ the parings.
” (I, IV, 179.) -The Fool is able to see the significant difference between Lear and his two evil daughter’s Goneril and Regan. The inconsistency with their father in the treatment of the fool shows the true character of the daughters. They whip him for telling the truth, which is odd. Most people hate being lied to, but Goneril and Regan will have it no other way. -The Fool is speaking of Lear’s self worth, expressing it to be nothing, for he’d rather not be a fool, but more so, he would not be Lear, for Lear is more a fool than he.
-The Fool knows that Goneril and Regan carry all the power that Lear used to have because he gave it to them, and now he is left with nothing. 8. “Thou wast a pretty fellow when thou hadst no need to care for her frowning; now thou art a O w …