King Lear

Necessary Madness in King Lear and Don Quixote College

King Lear and Don Quixote use madness to acknowledge the unpleasant truths of humanity. Don Quixote entertains a fundamentally comic madness; while, King Lear offers a more tragic interpretation of insanity. Both protagonists, King Lear and Don Quixote, ground their madness in powerful alternate realities. Cervantes’ explains Don Quixote’s fixation on knight-errantry writing, “So with too little sleep and too much reading his brains / dried up, causing him to lose his mind” (Don Quixote, Part I, Ch. I, 21). We see that Don Quixote, “so convinced in his imagination of all the / false inventions he read that no / history in the world was truer” chooses to isolate himself from the world (Don Quixote, Part I, Ch. I, 21). Conversely, King Lear has madness thrust upon him. He is stripped of his identity and left questioning, “Does anyone here know me? This is not Lear. / … Who is it that can tell me who I am?” (King Lear, 1.4.220-224) Lear’s insanity is forbidding and degrading. In the context of Quixote’s irrationality and Lear’s disassociation, we are encouraged to question the significance of madness and what it means to be human.

In Don Quixote we see that madness is self-initiated. Don Quixote decides to be a knight errant and...

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