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An O Without a Figure: King Lear and the Mask of the Fool

by Traub, Miranda Jane

Abstract (Summary)
In the topical abundance or superabundance of Shakespeares King Lear, almost all major thematic patterns, images, and symbols are linked to Lears enigmatic companion, the Fool. The Fool surpasses Shakespeares other fools when he is given a major role, yet he is more than a major figure: he is the pivot for action and interpretation. The presence and the importance of the Fool are emphasized further when almost half of Lears characters are referred to as fools. The stark, barren hinterland of Lear is shot through by the conspicuously forceful presence of folly. The fools propensity for misrule coupled with his centrality to the text results in a dramatic structure that itself breaks the rules. King Lear is the most generically puzzling play in Shakespeares corpus. Lear, a tragedy, draws upon comedy, history, romantic comedy, romance, and morality in indefinable and unparalleled ways. Just as form is juxtaposed in Lear, religious systems or identities are also contrasted. Pagan, Christian, existential, nihilistic, and moralistic interpretations are readily discernable. The fool, a potential nexus for structural questions, may also be at the heart of the question of spiritual identity. To locate the fool at the source of both structural and spiritual problems, and to discern why the fool factors so prominently especially in a play viewed as Shakespeares darkest, are the two endeavours of this thesis.
Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:Parkinson, David J.

School:University of Saskatchewan

School Location:Canada - Saskatchewan

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:silenus folly mask fool king lear genre

ISBN:

Date of Publication:10/04/2004

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