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King Lear's Madness

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In act two of Shakespeare’s King Lear, Lear’s mind can no longer bear all the mixed emotions it possess, and his sanity therefore begins to deteriorate. By the time that this scene takes place, Lear has been reduced from being a dominant and respected monarch, to being a lonely, rejected man, cast out from his family, followers, and fortune. Lear naturally turns to power as a solution to his troubles, and as a calmer to his uncontrollably high temper. In act two Lear is unaccustomed to his powerlessness and therefore does not know how to handle the situation.

Act one, scene one is a good example of Lear taking advantage of his power to fix himself mentally, and politically. Mentally, Lear is hurt that Cordelia won’t express any love for him. Politically, Lear has to decide how to deal with the dilemma that Cordelia is creating. Lear chooses to disinherit and banish Cordelia from his kingdom through the benefits of his high authority: “Here I disclaim all my paternal care” (1:1).

Act one, scene one also illustrates the extent to which Lear’s short temper reaches. Lear is clearly furious that Kent and Cordelia will refuse to plat his game. He stubbornly rejects what Kent and Cordelia have to say in defense and reacts with immediate abandonment. His temper instantaneously goes so high that Kent is threatened to get killed unless Kent leaves: “The bow is bent and drawn, make from the shaft.”(1:1).

Similarly Lear’s temper, shock, and grief is at its climax in act two, but the distinction between the two scenes is that Lear cannot respond to his power. Lear is tormented by the fact that Goneril and Regan have confiscated his guards. He is hurt by their betrayal and is also enraged from the realization that he has lack of control. Lear sees he does not and will not know how to manage without the support of his power and therefore begins to go



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