Don Quixote Book I

Everybody Plays the Fool: A Comparison of King Lear's Fool and Don Quixote's Squire

The first time the Fool enters in Shakespeare's King Lear he immediately offers Kent his coxcomb, or jester's hat. Lear asks the Fool "My pretty knave, how dost thou?" (1.4.98) This initial action and inquiry of the Fool is representative of the relationship between the Fool and the other characters throughout the entire play. In general, the Fool will say something nonsensical, or act seemingly illogically, and then explain his words and/or actions to let the reader know that he is actually the wisest man in the play. In the case mentioned above the Fool unexplainably offers his coxcomb to Kent. At first it seems that the Fool is just being foolish, for even the King cannot figure out the meaning of the Fool's action and words. After he explains himself, however, the reader realizes that the Fool is not only not a fool, but in fact has a sharper wit than the King's.

A similar situation presents itself in Cervante's Don Quixote. Even more so than King Lear, Don Quixote is out of his mind, and even though his squire, Sancho Panza, is constantly trying to help Don Quixote recapture his wits by pointing out his various insane hallucinations, Don Quixote generally refuses to listen to his inferior...

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