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How Shakespeare's Presentation of Madness and the Disruption of Natural Order Contribute to the Tragedy of King Lear

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Renaissance dramatists usually used 'mad scenes' to portray comedy and humour in their plays however Shakespeare in King Lear, uses madness in a more serious manner to show the tragedy in the play. In Act 1, when his rash banishment of Cordelia happens, "Here I disclaim all my paternal care, Propinquity and property of blood, And as a stranger to my heart and me, Hold thee from this forever", his madness is shown in a more insane manner to show his blindness. Later on in the play when King Lear realises his mistakes, his blindness and madness evoke pity in the audience. Aristotle's believed that when watching a tragedy, the audience must feel horror and pity.

Shakespeare also presents madness through Gonerill, Regan and Cornwall when they are plucking out Gloucester's eyes. "See't shalt thou never...Upon these eyes of thine, I'll set my foot" Their cruelty is apparent yet the reasoning behind it is more questionable. Are they just trying to reinforce their power? Are they trying to punish a traitor? Or have they merely gone made? Their lust is not just about killing, but rather torturing. To a common man this cruelty is something much larger than being mean just for the sake of it. The threesome may perhaps have gone mad with bloodlust. Ironically it is only after Gloucester has his eyes plucked out that he loses his blindness again evoking pity with the audience contributing to the tragedy.

Lear is a main point of madness however; the Fool throughout the play mumbles his maddening visions and predictions. Although he does indeed speak in a mad way, he is one of the few in the play that is truthful and can see what is going on around him and tries to warn other characters through his riddles. "Truth's a dog must to kennel" The Fool tries to warn Lear that the real truth is hidden. When Lear does find out the truth about his daughters and other matters, it makes the tragedy worse, as it could have been prevented especially when someone was warning him.

Edgar's ramblings as Poor Tom to an Elizabethan audience could be seen as comedic. In Act III scene 4, he sees King Lear and they both share an odd similarity. When he shouts and chants about evil women after seeing his father, he could subconsciously be shouting about Gonerill and Regan. When he also shouts about suicide from the devils, the audience may not only feel pity for this tragic scene but because of the beliefs of the time, the devil would have scared the audience and perhaps evoked fear which accompanies Aristotle's theory.

Ultimately the main madness in the play comes from King Lear and is at its worse in Act IV. In scene 4 he dances in a corn field with a crown he made himself out of flowers. "Crown'd with rank fumiter and furrow-weeds" The tragedy of this is at last the audience can see just how far he has dropped. Especially later in scene 6 he deludes himself into thinking he is king. "No, they cannot touch me for coining. I am the King himself" He also has a speech where he babbles about nothing of substance and

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