Poetic possession: language and madness in King Lear
Language, as a problem and as an active force, is at the center of King Lear’s tragedy, and it structures symbolically and concretely its drama. The problem of language is in the conflict between the flattering discourse of Regan and Goneril and the sincere discourse of Cordelia and Kent; it is in the illogicality of the Fool’s feigned madness and Lear’s real one. Lear trusts the ornate word and distrusts the naked one, the reason of his fall. Building on the notion of the centrality of language in the play, we intend to explore in this essay such question and to assess to what extent language is more than an instrument in King Lear and constitutes a truly autonomous dimension which interacts with the events of the play, and which Lear traverses in his madness. For this purpose we proceed in our study through three sections, in which, respectively, we analyze questions concerning language, first in the discourses of Goneril and Regan, Cordelia and Kent, then in the discourse of the Fool, and finally in the discourse of mad Lear. We concluded that the seed of the king’s tragedy consists in his excessive trust in words: for him, at the beginning of the play, language and reality are confused. When this view is shaken, both become unstable for him, and Lear falls into his madness, in which, in a different way, language and reality become fused once again, not as empty appearance like before, but now as poetic reality.
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