Madness and Reason – King Lear

‘Fairest Cordelia…’ ‘Fairest Cordelia, that art most rich, being poor’. Oxymoron highlights Cordelia’s goodness, and evidence of this as a rare depiction of a ‘wholesome’ relationship in the play.
‘The jewels…’ ‘The jewels of our father, with washed eyes / Cordelia leaves you’.1. Addresses herself in the third person – her dignity and sense of identity remains. 2. ‘Washed’ cleansed, seeing things from a new perspective3. Followed by ‘love well our father’ – like Kent, she is the embodiment of altruism, and is more concerned with her father’s wellbeing than with her own.4. Reason in the face of Lear’s madness.
‘O Lear…’ ‘O Lear, Lear, Lear! / Beat at this gate that let thy folly in (he strikes his head).1. Interjection emphasises the idea of impending madness.
‘Into her womb…’ ‘Into her womb convey sterility’.1. Part of Lear’s vitriolic speech against Gonerill after she tries to remove his train. The cruelty of it is emphasised by the use of hyperbaton – ‘sterility’ is given sturctural resonance here.
‘O matter…’ ‘O matter and impertinency mixed! / Reason in madness!’
‘O let me not be…’ ‘O let me not be mad, not mad, sweet heaven! I would not be mad’.1. Reformulation and repetition adds to the sense of impending madness.
‘….confusion’ Effect of rhythm? ‘Vengeance, plague, death, confusion!’1. Asyndetic listing completely breaks conventions of iambic pentameter, contributing to the idea of Lear’s impending madness.
‘A disease…’ ‘A disease that’s in my flesh / Which I must needs call mine’.
‘First let me…’ storm scene. ‘First let me talk with this philosopher.’ 1. The humorous idea that one finds reason in madness.
‘Cry you…’ ‘Cry you, mercy, I took you for a joint stool’.1. The ludicrous nature of this false trial and the arbitrary nature of justice is highlighted with this comparison to a joint stool.
‘…lead the blind’. ‘Tis the time’s plague when the madmen lead the blind’.1. Gloucester acknowledges the substantial inversion of the Great Chain of Being here with the claim that the madmen are now responsible for leading the blind.
‘With mutual…’ ‘With mutual cunning – ‘Twixt Albany and Cornwall’1. Proleptic of the impending civil war. We adhere to previous ideas about the body politic – the idea that in dividing his family and disrupting the Divine Right of Kings, he has also disrupted his kingdom.

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