King Lear

Maturity through Madness in King Lear

As one of the most significant moments in Shakespeare's King Lear, the scene described in Act 4, Scene 6, lines 131-146 provides insight into the parallels within the play and offers a definition of true meaning through irony. King Lear is the focus of this passage, and it is here where he hits the pinnacle of his transition from madness to maturity. Furthermore, the passage reveals parallels between Lear and Gloucester, their children, and their respective situations. The two can be compared and contrasted to further a reader's understanding of how they influence the play as a whole. Accordingly, Shakespeare's use of language allows several inferences to be made during the course of the scene.

Lear opens the passage with the line, "Let me wipe it first; it smells of mortality" (4.6.132), introducing the fact that he wants to rid himself of all traces of humanity. By doing so he brings himself to a "common" level, allowing himself to appear as though he has been fully overtaken by madness. Going insane has shattered his ties with the norm. This madness, however, serves as maturation in Lear's case; finally, he realizes the mistake he made in banishing Cordelia. At this point in the play, Lear...

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