King Lear

The Three Forms of Madness in King Lear

This essay concentrates on Act 111, Scene 4 of Shakespeare's King Lear, a tragic and powerful scene in which we witness Lear's mind tragically giving way to the menace of madness, which has relentlessly pursued him throughout the play. However, the character of Lear only portrays one of the three forms of madness represented in the scene - he may be the only character who is truly mad, but there is also the feigned madness of Poor Tom, and the professional madness of the Fool. These varying forms of madness are all represented in different ways via varying styles and forms of language, imagery, movement and verbal styles.

By the time that this scene takes place, Lear has been reduced from being a powerful and respected monarch with hundreds of followers, to being a lonely, rejected man, cast out of his own kingdom, his family, and all his fortune and wealth. He has been shut out in the night to wander the earth, accompanied by the only subjects whom remain loyal his Fool, and the Earl of Kent, who is disguised as Caius. The Fool and Kent have joined together in the scene to support the king, both physically and mentally.

That Lear finds himself here is a mixture of the results of his own folly, and the cruelty that he...

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