THE ROLE OF THE FOOL Characters are often able to notice their flaws when an outsider evaluates their actions. The Shakespearean tragedy King Lear exemplifies this situation. King Lear’s rash decisions towards his family are often followed by the Fool’s constant disapproval. In addition, the role of the Fool is to criticize the King’s follies because he is one of the few characters that are willing to stand up and tell him he is wrong. Furthermore, the Fool conveys words of wisdom to Lear through comical ways such as songs and rhymes.
He also lightens the mood for the readers in a tragic play. Therefore, the Fool is an important character in the play because he acts as the King’s inner conscience and helps him understand his faults. The Fool points out the wrong actions King Lear has taken towards his family. An example of this situation is when the Fool lectures Lear about the meeting with his three daughters. “All thy other titles thou hast given away that thou wast born with” (1. 4 153-154). The Fool explains that the King has nothing left once he has given away all his assets.
In addition, the Fool warns Lear about Goneril and Regan’s true motives and gives a warning that he is now their lapdog. “Truths a dog to kennel; he must be whipped out, when the lady Brach may stand by th’ fire and stink” (Act 1, Scene 4, 115). It is evident that the Fool displays insight into King Lear’s actions with his daughters. Moreover, the Fool tries to point out the King’s faults in a comical manner by creating songs and riddles. In the beginning of the play, King Lear objects to the Fool’s riddles commenting that it is nonsense. However in truth, the Fool’s riddles give important lessons that teach moral values to Lear. Have more than thou showest, Speak less than thou knowest, Lend less than thou owest, Ride more than thou goest, Learn more than thou trowest, Set less than thou throwest; Leave thy drink and thy whore, And keep in-a-door, And thou shalt have more Than two tens to a score” (Act 1, Scene 4, 122). Accordingly, the Fool’s riddles are not only for entertaining but also a valuable criticism to Lear’s actions. Furthermore, the Fool continues to lighten the mood in the darker scenes of the play. The Fool is the only character in the play that is able to keep a positive outlook on life.
Throughout the play, characters are tirelessly fighting and being betrayed by their family. However, the fool remains unaffected by the troubling events surrounding him. He is indifferent to the suffering of others and only offers his humour yet his humour drastically affects the mood of a scene. “And yet I would not be thee, nuncle. Thou hast pared thy wit o’ both sides and left nothing i’ th’ middle. Here comes one o’ the parings” (Act 1, Scene 4, 190-193). It reveals his opinion about a serious matter in a subtle and less offending manner to the King.
As a result, the Fool is able to receive sympathy from the King and become his friend. Clearly, the Fool is a bright and joyful character in a tragic play. Ultimately, the Fool is not just a servant that provides laughter to Lear, but is also a wise friend. The name “Fool” is ironic because a king is receiving advice from a fool. The Fool is an important character in the play because he is an intelligent character that provides clear reasoning for a one-sighted king, creates important riddles, and brings humour to a very tragic play. Unquestionably, the Fool is a crucial character in the play King Lear.