• Created by: Pip Dan
  • Created on: 20-09-17 16:50

Whilst Lear declines in terms of his power, authority and social standing his mental stability also fails. Through Lear, Shakespeare explores the great tragedy of madness and its effect on a person and those close to them. The character of Poor Tom is used to explore the idea of feigned madness. With the limits of medical science at the time it is understandable that Shakespeare doesn't offer a definitive cause of Lear's madness. However, within the universe of 'King Lear' there are hints.

  • Lear seems to attribute his madness to his grief and anger over the actions of his daughters. When reflecting on them he stops himself mid-point claiming 'O, that way madness lies'. Lear seems to realise that his constant hatred is changing him. However, he is not mentally stable when he claims this and, as revealed through his interactions with Poor Tom, Lear seems to believe that all suffering is caused by ungrateful daughters
  • The adjective 'old' is often used to describe the King and it could be said that Lear is suffering from madness because of his old age. Simon Russel Beal who portrayed Lear in the Mendes production believed that Lear was suffering from Lewy Body Dementia because of his symptoms of:
    • Visual hallucinations
    • Confusion which increases and decreases
    • His ability to control his movements decreases
    • Takes his clothes off (losing social inhibitions)
    • Sexual comments
  • Many interpretations have been considered over the play's long history. Coppelia Kahn, for example, argues that Lear goes mad because he realises how much he has to depend on females, namely his daughters
  • It may be said that Lear's madness has no definite cause. A nihilistic reading might suggest that Lear suffers simply because the entire


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