King Lear

Reason in Madness in King Lear

As in his Hamlet, Shakespeare uses “reason in madness” throughout King Lear by using unexpected characters to help with his overall theme of recognition and realization. However, reason in madness can also refer to Shakespeare himself, because in all the chaos and tragedy throughout King Lear, he preaches to us a very real and intended message. Literary scholars often disagree about the final scene of this play, saying that the lack of redemption indicates a Godless theme. We can deduce, however, that there is reason in Shakespeare’s madness, and that the disaster and confusion that run throughout the play serve a definite purpose in his work.

In the opening scenes, we see that Lear is for the most part sane – ignorant, but sane. He knows what he is doing when he banishes and disowns the one daughter who loves him, but he is ignorant to the honesty and love behind her few words. While her sisters mindlessly and deceitfully flatter their father with empty words, Cordelia prefers to “love, and be silent” (1.1.68). Lear, however, does not see things that way, and ignorantly decides that her silence means she does not love him, and divides his kingdom between his two wicked and treacherous daughters. They strip him of his power and...

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