The Fool

  • Created by: Pip Dan
  • Created on: 20-09-17 16:19

The Fool is one of Lear's closest servants. Like Kent, the Fool remains totally dedicated to his master's service and unlike Kent the Fool has the freedom to directly challenge Lear's decisions and not be reprimanded. His character disappears as Lear's madness intensifies but he remains an important construct, in an almost Chorus like position, to give commentary on the events of the play and to help the audience to understand Lear.

'All licenced fool'

Goneril references the Fool as 'all licenced' and it is perhaps one of the best descriptions of him. Both Cordelia and Kent get banished for criticising Lear but Lear allows the Fool to challenge him. Like the fool Feste in 'Twelfth Night', Lear's Fool critiques his master's actions and provides social commentary on the play. The Fool never directs any of the action or moves the plot along, instead he comments on what has happened and the wider effects to help the audience understand the events. He is perhaps the personification of the truth as he not only speaks on honestly but has the freedom not to be reprimanded because of it.

By challenging Lear on dividing the Kingdom is the audience can see the King's reaction to his actions. It allows his conscience to be provoked and whilst Lear's reactions are often dismissing the Fool's speeches it does allow him to realise that he did do wrong by Cordelia. Through the Fool the audience can understand Lear better and Lear understands himself better. However, some critics have argued that the repetition of the Fool criticising Lear might slow down the action whilst it could equally be argued that this is the only way for Lear to understand his mistakes.


Like Kent, the Fool is totally loyal to Lear. He stands with Lear when everyone else abandons him and stays by his master's side throughout the storm scene. They have an incredibly close relationship. The Fool calls Lear 'Nuncle' and Lear calls the Fool 'my boy'. This shows the affectionate relationship between the two and perhaps could also suggest that the Fool like somewhat like a good son in a play where many children treat their parents appallingly. Many productions of the play have had the Fool clinging to Lear's leg during the storm scene. This is a powerful image as it suggests that the Fool want to keep Lear grounded and sane, reminding Lear of who he is.

Cordelia and the Fool

Some literary critics have speculate that the Fool and Cordelia were originally played by the same actor. They never appear onstage together, so some scholars hypothesized that the part was double cast, and that the Fool had to disappear when Cordelia came back into the play. Of course back in Shakespeare's day this could have been possible because there were no female actors; however, in the modern day this is scarcely used.

On the other hand, many scholars argue that Shakespeare probably meant for the fool to be played by the…


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