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King Lear Analysis

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Jenna Lin

on 14 June 2013

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Transcript of King Lear Analysis

King Lear
Analysis through a medical lens
King Lear
Medical Lens
a syndrome that results in
confusion, change in behaviour, and
unaware of one’s environment

- hallucination
- poor memory
- rambling or nonsense speech
- delusion
- poor judgment
- depression
- memory loss

In the play, many have diagnosed King Lear, Poor Tom, and Gloucester of having mental illnesses.
Many believe Lear was insane from the beginning. The events occurring drove him to madness and the development of mental illnesses.
[Cordelia]Alack, ‘tis he! Why, he was met even now
As mad as the vexed sea, singing aloud,
Crowned with rank fumiter and furrow-weeds,
With hardocks, hemlock, nettles, cuckoo-flowers,
Darnel and all the idle weeds that grow
In our sustaining corn. A century send forth;
Search every acre in the high-grown field,
And bring him to our eye. (IV.IV.1-8)
Poor Tom & Schizophrenia
After the banishment of Edgar, the son of the Duke of Gloucester , it had caused him to lose his identity and disguise himself as Poor Tom.
Schizophrenia Symptoms

- Delusions
- Hallucinations
- Thought disorder
- Disorganized behaviour
- Loss of interest
- Lack of emotion
- Neglect personal hygiene
- Social withdrawal
- Loss of motivation

-show lack in hygiene
-are very disturbed individuals
-he experiences delusions and hallucinations
-shows lack in sanity.
Poor Tom
“ The foul fiend haunts poor Tom in the voice of a nightingale.
Hoppedance cries in Tom's belly for two white herring Croak not, black angel; I have no food for thee.”
- Edgar (Act 3, scene 4, line 28)
Quote :

- hallucination
- delusion
- poor attention, concentration
and memory
- decreased reactions to environment
and surroundings
a disorder which affects a person's
sense of reality (a loss of contact
with reality)
disorders which affects
how an individual thinks,
feel, and behave

- barely wears much clothing.
- briefly mentions his disgusting and unsanitary diet.
“My face I'll grime with filth
Blanket my loins, elf all my hair in knots
And with presented nakedness outface”
- Edgar (Act 2, Scene 3, line 1)

“Poor Tom; that eats the swimming frog, the toad,the tadpole, the wall-newt and the water; that inthe fury of his heart, when the foul fiend rages,eats cow-dung for sallets; swallows the old rat andthe ditch-dog; drinks the green mantle of thestanding pool; who is whipped from tithing totithing, and stock- punished, and imprisoned; whohath had three suits to his back, six shirts to hisbody, horse to ride, and weapon to wear;
But mice and rats, and such small deer,Have been Tom's food for seven long year.Beware my follower. Peace, Smulkin; peace, thou fiend.”- Edgar (Act 3, Scene 4, line 120)
Quotes :
- hallucinations
- delusions
- confusion
- immature behaviour
- unable to care for self
a disorder which causes the loss of mental functions that are able to interfere with one's daily life
Banishing Kent
Banishing Cordelia
Lear's death
Begs Regan to live with her
However, it is evident that ‘Poor Tom’ who is really Edgar, does not continue to have the mental illness towards the end of the play. Edgar only pretends to be mad and eventually reveals himself to his father who is blinded. Even though Edgar pretends and plays the role of a beggar who is mad. It shows that the character he becomes was inspired by actual patients that shared schizophrenic symptoms. Poor Tom or also known as “Tom O’ Bedlam” refers to the general hospital of St. Mary of Bethlehem. In 1403, St.Mary of Bethlehem developed into an asylum specifically for the mentally ill.
How Characters and Settings Develop Theme
Authority vs. Chaos
Gloucester expresses some of the symptoms of depression as there were many factors that contributed that may have caused him to fall into depression. He felt betrayed that his only legitimate son supposedly try to overthrow him and inherit all his wealth, however it was false. His eyes had been gouged out by Cornwall, thus, he became blind. Although the source of Gloucester’s possible depression would be that he is grieving over his son Edgar.
Gloucester & Depression
What is Shizophrenia?
- type of brain disorder
- requires life long treatment
- unbalance of emotions
- there are five subtypes of schizophrenia : catatonic schizophrenia, disorganized schizophrenia, paranoid schizophrenia, residual schizophrenia, undifferentiated schizophrenia

“O you mighty gods!
This world I do renounce, and, in your sights,
Shake patiently my great affliction off:
If I could bear it longer, and not fall
To quarrel with your great opposeless wills,
My snuff and loathed part of nature should
Burn itself out. If Edgar live, O, bless him!
Now, fellow, fare thee well.”
- Gloucester (pg. 98 Act 4, Scene 6; line 35-41)

[Gentleman] Contending with the fretful elements,
Bids the wind blow the earth into the sea,
Or swell the curled waters ‘bove the main,
That things might change or cease; tears his white hair,
Which the impetuous blasts with eyeless rage
Catch in their fury and make nothing of;
Strives in his little world of man to out-storm
The to-and-fro-conflicting wind and rain.
This night, wherein the cub-drawn bear would couch,
The lion and belly-pinched wolf
Keep their fur dry, unbonneted he runs,
And bids what will take all. (III.I.4-16)
Cordelia's death
In the storm
The new Lear
Mock trial
Lear & Goneril + Regan:

- Easily betrayed due to his values,
hubris, rash decisions
- Blind to desire vs. reality
- Setting: Downgraded from
castle to hovel
Gloucester & Edumund:

- Unfair treatment towards
illegitmate son vs. legitimate
- "Blind" to the truth
- Naive in believing Edmund's
- Gloucester's punishment
Edgar & Edmund:

- Spoiled and clueless
- Naive in believing
everything he heard
Betrayal was the CAUSE of the protagonists' medical illness

- Hubris
- Inability to think twice, no
thought about the result
- Setting: Storm in the Heath

- Misdirected love; ambitious
and desire for power
- Need for love and affection
- Caused Gloucester to suffer

Authority vs. Chaos represent the SYMPTOMS of the protagonists' illness.

- Diminishing hope
of love
- Regret, but does not attempt
to resolve the situation
- Setting: Battle between
Britain and France mirrors
his mentality


- Suffered mentally
and physically
- Divine punishment
of adultery

Suffering portrays the protagonists' DIAGNOSIS of their unstable mentality.

- Represents Britain as a whole:
When he suffers, Britain
suffers with him
- Setting:Dover as a place of relief
Edgar/Poor Tom:

- Feigned insanity to
cope with situation
- Became a stronger person
Mentality illustrates the protagonist's fight against his madness

- Devoted, forgiving, and kind
- Lear learned to appreciate her
actions over words
- In prison, Lear said he'd rather
stay there with Cordelia than be
king again
Cordelia acts as Lear's PATH TO RECOVERY

Cursing Goneril
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