An o without a figure : King Lear and the mask of the fool
Traub, Miranda Jane
In the topical abundance or superabundance of Shakespeare’s King Lear, almost all major thematic patterns, images, and symbols are linked to Lear’s enigmatic companion, the Fool. The Fool surpasses Shakespeare’s other fools when he is given a major role, yet he is more than a major figure: he is the pivot for action and interpretation. The presence and the importance of the Fool are emphasized further when almost half of Lear’s characters are referred to as fools. The stark, barren hinterland of Lear is shot through by the conspicuously forceful presence of folly. The fool’s propensity for misrule coupled with his centrality to the text results in a dramatic structure that itself breaks the rules. King Lear is the most generically puzzling play in Shakespeare’s corpus. Lear, a tragedy, draws upon comedy, history, romantic comedy, romance, and morality in indefinable and unparalleled ways. Just as form is juxtaposed in Lear, religious systems or identities are also contrasted. Pagan, Christian, existential, nihilistic, and moralistic interpretations are readily discernable. The fool, a potential nexus for structural questions, may also be at the heart of the question of spiritual identity. To locate the fool at the source of both structural and spiritual problems, and to discern why the fool factors so prominently especially in a play viewed as Shakespeare’s darkest, are the two endeavours of this thesis.
DegreeMaster of Arts (M.A.)
SupervisorParkinson, David J.
Copyright DateSeptember 2004