King Lear

The Use of Paradox as Related to the Theme of Truth in King Lear

"May not an ass know when the cart draws the horse?"1 (I.iv.223).

This question, posed by the Fool, is aptly descriptive of the world of King Lear,which is a world turned upside down, a cart before the horse existence, whichsets the characters spinning in a clamorous storm of chaos. Shakespeareincludes countless examples of the paradoxical circumstance in this play. Theinclusion of these contradictory circumstances add an appropriate, true tolife sense of irony to the play as well as a thematic suggestion of theoutcome of a refusal to accept or recognize the truth.

One particularly noteworthy example of this is that in King Lear theparents become the children. Once Lear has divided his kingdom, he becomesdependent upon his daughters for support. He enters into this agreement,unaware that in doing so two of his ungrateful daughters will deprive him ofpaternal authority and further patriarchal position within the kingdom.Goneril suggests this idea when she says,

...Idle old man,

That still would manage those authorities

That he hat given away! Now by my life

Old fools are babes again, and must be used

With checks as flatteries, when they are seen abus'd (I.iii.16.20).

Later in the play, Regan, in speaking to her father,...

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