Character Sketch -The Fool | King Lear

Character Sketch -The Fool | King Lear

Character Sketch -The Fool | King Lear: The character of the Fool in Shakespeare’s play “King Lear” is a genius creation. It is unique and it is a triumph in the play “King Lear”. The theme, the technique and spirit of the drama certify the exclusive role of the Fool. The character of the Fool attracted the critics’ attention and it is universally acclaimed as an excellent one.

Character Sketch -The Fool | King Lear

The Fool has no name and he does not appear to be a living individual at all. Frederick Boas described the Fool as “a wandering voice and the soul of pathos in a comic masquerade.’

In addition to this the Fool is a personification of intellect. He brings out the misery of Lear with comparisons, epigrams, and doggerel. Lear banished two of his daughters and deserted the third one.

Lear displayed that his rational faculty was completely lost but the Fool reminds him and the readers about the continuation of the tragic flaw of King Lear. The Fool is described as old King Lear’s inner thoughts. The inner thoughts of King Lear are revealed through the Fool for the readers and King Lear.


The Fool is described as ‘a wandering voice’. He is ore a spirit than a man. It is elusive and evasive. He does not display any qualities of a living character. He is mixture of images revolving in a kaleidoscope. The Fool has two subjects in his speeches. The first one is Lear’s blunder of offering the kingdom to his villainous daughters: Goneril and Regan and banishment of his innocent daughter, Cordelia. The Fool talks about only half-witted sense of nonsense. For example he gives moral lessons:

Have more than thou showest, 

Speak less than thou knowest.

Lend less than thou owest, 

Ride more than thou goest.” {Act I, scene IV}

There is fine blending of sense and nonsense, sanity and insanity in the Fool’s dialogues. That is why his speeches are like from another world. It is stated that the Fool seems to come in to the play out of the unknown and he passes out of it like a spirit. Kent rightly describes the Fool and says: “This is not altogether Fool my Lord.”

The character of the Fool is significant in the play for many reasons. First of all, Lear’s folly and foolishness have been contrasted with the Fool’s wisdom. He stands in contrast to Lear’s misjudgement. The Fool also is one of the three lunatics in the play. Lear is really mad, the Fool is full of disordered wit and Edgar has feigned madness. The Fool provides a kind of relief in the drama. So the Fool is useful as all powerful auxiliary.

In the medieval royal court, a fool enjoyed a prestigious position. In “King Lear” the Fool has the largest opportunity of seeing and the greatest opportunity of speaking. The Fool does not his position for any low purpose. He employs his position towards the noble sympathies of the man, Lear loves him and he wants the Fool’s company for relief amidst great turmoil in his kingdom.

But the Fool continually reminds Lear about his blunders. His fun, jokes, and wit are idealised into a tragic beauty. His statement appears light and cheap but they are pregnant with tragic truth about life. He also brings diversion in serious thoughts. That is why the Fool provides the real spirit of the play.

Some critics find faults with Shakespeare for the introduction of the Fool in King Lear. They opine that the Fool is the dark spot in the sublime drama. But a deeper study reveals the real significance of his character. First of all the Fool has no suffering of his own but he suffers the most in the play. His participation with the ethos of the drama is hidden and only suggestive.

The burden of sorrow and pain is unveiled in the intensity of his speeches. He tries his level best to entertain his master and to keep him away from misery. He realises that his old master King Lear is insane. He concludes that he is of no use and help his master to get out of tragedy. He decides to depart when things go out of his hands.

Sometimes a question is raised whether the Fool is a man or a woman, whether he is young or aged. But these questions are irrelevant. The spirit of the Fool’s character is reveled as per the situation and context.

Even though madness is dominant in the play and there are three characters infected with it. The insanity of King Lear is the result of the cruel shock of life. The insanity of Edgar is feigned one as a convenience for the context. But the matter of the Fool is completely different.

The Fool’s madness holds courageous heroism. He attempts to help a mad old man to come back to normalcy. He attempt to divert Lear and to console him simultaneously by reminding him of his past blunders. Hence the Fool’s madness is exclusively different.

The character of the Fool presents two different moods in the play when he talks to Lear he is caustic and bitter in tone which implies admonition. But he is quiet and timid before Goneril and Regan. The Fool is frightened and stands silent I shock. These two moods explain that the Fool is not a regular character. He has a specific purpose and role in the play. He prominently presents the other side of Lear’s character.

It is important to note that the Fool enters after the departure of Cordelia and she enters after the disappearance of the Fool. Cordelia and the Fool are the two characters in the play who have enough courage to present reality to King Lear.

Lear states that he shall have supper in the morning, the Fool remarks that he would go to bed in the noon. With this statement the Fool takes his leave. However Kent asks the Fool: “Come help to bear thy master, Thou must not stay behind.”

Thus, the character of the Fool is effective and influential in many ways in the play “King Lear”. It plays significant role in the play.

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