Thursday, November 13, 2008

Cordelia & the Fool

Are Cordelia and the Fool the same person?

This is one of the more famous questions about King Lear. There are several reasons that offer evidence for this:

1. The characters never appear on-stage at the same time. Some will speculate that the same actor played both roles in Shakespeare's productions, but this is unlikely. The company's clown would not likely have doubled as the tragic heroine. (Though there is evidence that support Shakespeare's clown may have played Edgar. This could be support for Lear calling the Fool "boy.") But who knows, it definitely is a good starting point for the discussion.
2. At the end of the play as Lear is dying he says " poor fool is hanged" in reference to Cordelia. This is where all the arguments begin to flourish. There are plenty of ways to justify the multiple meanings of "fool" or justify him talking about the offstage Fool who disappeared in Act III.
3. Both character serve as the truth tellers in Lear's court. Their telling of the truth is sometimes audacious and often unwanted and unheeded by Lear.

But the two characters run parallel in their relationship to Lear. They are confidants and his strength through out the play. It is when he sends Cordelia away that the Fool shows up and Cordelia doesn't return until the Fool leaves as well.

Take a look at the play reading it as though the two characters are the same person. Or better yet, the Fool becomes a construction in Lear's mind during the absence of his daughter Cordelia and his attempts to combat his own fragile mental state.

Happy Birthday: Edwin Booth (1833-1893) & Neil Flynn (b. 1960)

1 comment:

  1. In Act 1 Scene 4, Goneril directly converses with the Fool saying, "You, sir, more knave than fool, after your master!" (1.4.311). Therefore, the idea that the fool is a construction in Lear's mind is clearly incorrect. LOL