Compassion, understanding and truth are with Cordelia puts forward while talking to Lear. In the opening act, Lear was dividing his kingdom between his three daughters but he was giving Cordelia a bigger part of his kingdom because he clearly loves Cordelia more. In return for the larger share she is expected to give excessive flattery of her love towards him. Instead of the response what Lear was looking for he got a tempered, honest and reasonable remark. Cordelia tells the King, “Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave / my heart into my mouth: love your / majesty according to my bond; nor more nor / less” (1.1.54-57). Because Cordelia does not meet her father’s expectations, Lear banishes her. As the play develops, Cordelia is no more seen until the very end of the play. She is seen when she rescues the King from an attack on the King from his other two daughters. After she saves him, she says that “Mine enemy’s dog / though he had but me, should have stood that night / against my fire” (4.7.42-44). She was disgusted at the fact of how her sisters treated Lear. She says in that line that she would have let even her enemy’s nastiest dog stay inside by the fireplace even if that dog had bit her. This shows the compassion and understanding she has towards her father. Even after Lear banished her out his rage, she was the only daughter that came back and took care of her father. She cannot comprehend at the actions which her sister took towards King Lear. With Cordelia’s considerate nature, she soothes the king’s distressed mind. Only a few can understand the King because he is rash and at times irrational. Cordelia knows what the king goes through with his daughters and she wishes that she could possibly, “Repair those violent harms that my two sisters have / in thy reverence made” (4.7.38-39). She says that the sisters should have loved and cherished you instead of them trying to kill you. Cordelia is the only daughter that showed the truth to Lear, she knew if she said that she loved him like her sisters did that the love she described to him would be useless. Instead she shows her love with compassion, understanding and truth. The death of Cordelia brought grief and pain to Lear. It was through her death that he understood what a compassionate, understanding daughter she was. He says to Cordelia: “Cordelia, Cordelia, stay a little. Ha! / What is’t thou say’st? Her voice was ever soft, / Gentle, and low, an excellent thing in woman. / I kill’d the save that was a-hanging thee” (5.3.275-279). The fool on the other hand hurts the King’s mental state.
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The fool’s chaotic and troubling ways gives the King a very disturbed life. Even with this chaotic personality the Fool has the shows the greatest insight and wisdom. The Fool is seen as Lear’s guide and conscience, yet he critiques the King on many things which leads him to his madness. Telling the truth, insulting the king and making is problems public the Fool leads the King into a distressed life. For example, the fool says, “If thou wert my Fool, uncle, I’d have / thee beaten for being old before thy time” (1.5.61-62). Even though the Fool and Cordelia never meet each other in the play, the Fool talks to the King about Cordelia. He tries to persuade Lear in thinking that it was wrong banishing Cordelia and he tries to reason with the King but the being arrogant ignores the Fool and yells at him. The Fool being persistent, troubles the King with this issue because he know that giving the land away to the other daughters was a bad idea. The Fool says, “All thy other titles thou hast given away; that thou wast born with” (1.4.120). When the King talks to the Fool about what he said about the truth the Fool comes back with, “Truth’s a dog must to kennel, he must be whipt out, when the lady Brach / may stand by th’ fire and stink” (1.4.89-90) meaning that Lear has poor judgment and it implied that he is metaphorical dog to his daughters. The King in his anger threatens to whip the Fool for what he says to him. The Fools chaotic behaviour causes him to show a lack of respect for Lear, rather he makes fun of what he says and he will not show respect because he sees the King as and aged King. When the Fool said these things, the King wonders if he himself is worth anything at the end. When the King contemplates thoughts and ideas in his mind The Fool makes remarks and qualms his ideas, he also makes Lear’s faults very prominent. For e example, when Lear asked Edgar, “wouldst thou give ’em all?” the Fools says, “Nay, he reserved a blanket, else we had been all shamed” (3.4.55-56). To further damage the fragile state of King Lear, The Fool makes even more arrogant comments towards Lear but he speaks with truth and almost guides Lear in his walk. Kent says, “This is not altogether fool, my lord” (1.4.168) meaning that even he acknowledges that the Fools speaks the truth. The rare occasion where the Fool shows compassion to Lear is when Lear slips into madness:
“My wits begin to turn. / Come on, my boy. How dost, my /
boy? Art cold? / I am cold myself. Where is this / straw, my
fellow? The art of our necessities is strange, / That can make vile
things precious. / Come, your hovel. / Poor Fool and Knave,
I have one / part in my heart / That’s sorry yet for thee” (3.2.63-69).
In this quote the Lear sees the Fool as the boy and he fears for the health of the Fool. Because of this, the Fool brings out a caring side of the King. As the madness of Lear increases, the Fool tries to lighten the mood with jokes. But instead of relieving the dramatic tension he only increases it. As an example, Lear says, “Off, off, you lendings! / Come, unbutton here” the Fool replies, “Pr’ythee, nuncle, be contented; ’tis a naught night to swim in” (3.4. 185-186). The pathos of the situation was created when his attempts to sustain the King. The Fool is a chaotic and troubling character in this play but he is also a voice of reason which helps to expose certain elements of Lear.
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Both Cordelia and the Fool are different in their ways but they mean the same for King Lear. Compassion and love are what Cordelia portrays to King Lear while the Fool is full of chaos and madness. Cordelia has a very soothing nature towards King Lear. Cordelia was always seen as a caring and compassionate person but to King Lear at the start of the plays, he despised her and banished her because she would not flatter him. But as the play developed Lear realized that Cordelia was one of the best daughters he can have. During a talk between the King and the Fool, the King asks “Dost thou call me “fool,” boy?” (1.4.142). Offence was taken at the Fools quick tongue and Lear gets angry again. “Rumble thy bellyful! Spit, fire! Spout, rain! / Nor rain, wind, thunder, fire are my daughters” (3.2. 21-22), the Fool says this while being with King Lear in a storm. The fool was just not a servant to Lear but a friend. Even though he can be chaotic and arrogant towards the King, the King sees him as a son that he never had. Even though Cordelia and the Fool never met, they played a major role in helping the King.
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