In the play King Lear there are many characters and they all have their own roles. Some roles are more obvious than others. The one that catches my attention the most is the role of the Fool. In the dictionary the definition of a fool is someone who lacks sense or judgement. Does the Fool lack sense or judgement? Or is he the opposite and everyone just perceives him as a fool.
These questions come down into one ultimate question, was the Fool a madman or a prophet. Personally I think that he was a prophet. The Fool knew every outcome of the King's decisions. Since the Fool was not taken seriously everyone just disregarded him. This leads me to believe that the Fool was not as foolish as people thought.
Besides bringing "foolishness" to the play the Fool also brought irony. He was the smartest person in the play but was treated as the stupidest. How ironic is it that by the middle of the play the king was loosing his mind and the Fool was giving him advice. The ironic theme of the play makes the irony of the Fool more prevalent. His irony made the reader more inclined to understand and realize how far from foolish he really was.
I think that the Fool also had the role of being the voice of reality in Lear's life. The King let the Fool say whatever he wanted because he was "crazy".This gave the Fool the opportunity to say what he wanted and no matter how crazy it sounded. The King didn't take his advice but he listened. The Fool gave the king what he needed, clarity and reason. He gave the King a new perspective on things, too bad it was a little late because the damage had been done, the King had lost his power.
The Fool came into the play after the King divided up his kingdom. The placement of the Fool in the play is important. The Fool comes in after the King's daughters had already thought up their evil plan. Also the Fool leaves the play when the King is safe with Kent and Cordelia. This leads me to believe that the Fool is like a safety blanket for the King. He is there for him in his times of need but when he is not in trouble the Fool is not there. The Fool looks out for the King's best interest.
The Fool thinks very highly of himself, even though no one else does. The comments he makes lead the reader to believe that he knows he is right. Even though I know he is right the characters in the play don't and treat him disrespectfully. In the Fool's first speech he says, "Have more than you should, speak less than you know and lend less than you need". This quote can be taken two ways. The Fool can be speaking about the King saying that he should have more because he doesn't have anything including his daughters and his kingdom. The King also should not be so trusting and not be so giving.If he was less trusting and giving then maybe he wouldn't have gotten taken advantage of. These to me are true about the King. This quote can also be directed toward the Fool. He has more than people think he should be, to them he speaks less than they know and he only gives a little. This is also true about the fool. Although the Fool is probably talking about the King and the mess that he made but he could also be directing the statement toward himself.
The Fool has an insight that others don't see. One example of this is he knows that Goneril and Reagan are really evil people. He knows they lie and do not like them because of that. He says, "they'll have me whipped for speaking true". The Fool knows the extent of their meanness and also knows that the King does not see it. The Fool realizes that Goneril and Reagan will take over the whole kingdom and leave nothing left for the King. This makes them corrupt and the Fool lets them know that he does not like them. He tells Goneril to her face that he is better than she is for what she had planned. Of course him telling Goneril this means nothing because he is "Just the Fool."
The Fool has many roles in this play. I thought about why the Fool cares so much about the King and I realized that the Fool has a lot of respect for the King. The Fool sticks by the King during the rough times, kind of like a good friend. The Fool tells the King that he "shouldn't have become old until he was wise". The Fool is implying that the King has made foolish assumptions about his daughters and he wants him to realize it. This shows that the Fool has respect and concern for the King. The King was very nave and made a mistake. He trusted his daughters and they stabbed him in the back.
The King and the Fool compliment each other. Whenever the King makes a mistake the fool catches him. The Fool gets satisfaction out of helping the King. Lear does not even realize that the Fool is helping him realize what he has done. This is ironic because a powerful King can't even help himself; his fool has to help him. Despite the Fools outward foolishness he has inner knowledge that no one takes seriously. The King on the other hand has outer strength and inward foolishness. This is why they compliment each other so well.
The Fool's prophetic characteristics become more prominent throughout the play. On page 919 he makes a prophecy, he says, "Things won't be better until father's that wear rags make their children blind, but fathers who hang on to their money will have good childrenfortune turns the key."In this quote I think the Fool is very straightforward. He basically tells the King that if he hadn't split up his kingdom between his children then he would have "good children". Then when he ends the quote with "fortune turns the key" he is implying that it is up to the King to make the right choices to fix everything.
Irony is prominent throughout the play. Another example that caught my attention was when they were in the storm and Kent came and asked, "Who is there?" The Fool replied "A wise man and a Fool." This quote can be very misleading. We immediately think that the King is the wise man and the Fool is the fool, but this quote can mean the opposite. Was the Fool implying that he was the fool and the King was the wise man or the other way around? I think that he meant it the other way around. At this point in the story Lear was loosing him mind and I think the Fool was the only one who kept him under control. In that respect the Fool was wise to help the crazy King as best he could. In his doing that it made the Fool the wise man and the King the fool.
The thought of Lear being the Fool and the Fool being a wise man is not a very far stretch. Lear is the fool because he gave his evil daughters control over his kingdom and banished his loving and true daughter. Lear's foolishness was the cause of his own fate. The Fool however, was wise because he predicted what was going to happen although no one listened. In one of the last speeches of the Fool he says that "When all the wrongs are right then everything will be okay." This statement is accurate but according to the Fool it would take the work of magic to make the mess go away.
The Fool brings many qualities to the play. Some examples are irony, honesty, humor and loyalty. In the play his role was ironic because he was the "fool" but he was wiser than the King. The Fool displayed much humor by singing asinine songs throughout the play and making snide comments to the other characters. He was also honest by telling the King what he had to do to fix his kingdom. The Fool had many qualities but the one most prominent was loyalty. The Fool never left the King until he knew that he would be all right. He stuck by him during the storm and therefore he was loyal to the King. The Fool was more loyal than the King's own daughters
The role of the Fool in the play consists of many things. He was not taken seriously by anyone in the play yet he didn't care and continued to say what he wanted when he wanted. I feel that his role was significant. He was the voice of reason throughout the play and if his character was not in the play then the outcome would probably be worse. On page 936 the King is warm in bed and mentions gong to breakfast in the morning and the Fool replies "And I'll go to bed at noon." This meant he was done guiding the King and the Fool knew it was up to Lear to so what he had to do.
The Fool may have been treated like a fool in the play but he defanitly did not act like a fool. His actions were far from foolish. He displayed many admirable qualities that many people today wish they had. Throughout the play the Fool never lacked sense or judgement therefore he was not at all foolish. He was the person who said anything that crossed his mind no matter how strange or stupid it was. The Fool thought very highly of himself while others looked down upon him. His role was to help the King when no one else would and for that he was not foolish. Since the Fool was not a fool and turned out to be wise makes his role all the more important.