Madness in King Lear: Act 4

Madness in King Lear: Act 4 In Shakespeare\'s play King
Lear, Shakespeare introduces many themes. The most
important theme shown in King Lear is the theme of
madness. During the course of this play madness is shown in
the tragic hero, King Lear. King Lear develops madness
right in the beginning of the play but he actually shows it in
Act 4. In this act, King Lear is not only at the peak of
madness but it is also shown him coming out of his madness
as well. This act is likely to be the most important act
because it shows the phases King Lear goes through, from
complete madness to him coming out of his madness and
realizing his mistake, the point of tragic vision. The theme of
madness in King Lear is first shown in the act through
Cordelia\'s statement to the guards about the condition her
father is in. Cordelia says "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." [Act iv, iv, 1-6].
This gives a great description of King Lear\'s state of mind.
Cordelia gives a description of King Lear dressed in
flowers, and weeds, and she explains to the guards that he is
singing aloud. All of these characteristics are unfit for a king,
thus, leaving one reasonable explanation of him being mad,
which Cordelia states in her speech to the guards. King
Lear\'s madness is further illustrated in act 4, scene 6.
Although King Lear had shown signs of madness in other
act\'s such as 3, he had really shown the extreme of his
madness in this scene. King Lear is shown completely
insane, through his garments and his speeches to Gloucester
and Edgar. In one of his speeches, King Lear makes
comments about a mouse and a bird that are not present.
"..Look look, a mouse! Peace, peace; this piece of toasted
cheese will do it…O, well flown, bird!" [iv, vi, 88-91]. This
statement was the first sign of him being mad. At the
beginning of Act 4, it was just mentioned that King Lear was
gone mad, this was the first sign of proof that he was indeed
mad. Although King Lear shows signs of being mad, he also
shows signs of being sane. This is shown through him
knowing the cause of him being mad. If King Lear was
completely mad he would not be able to justify the reason
for his madness. In [iv, vi, 96-105] he states that his
daughters’ have done him wrong and shows signs of insanity
when he calls Gloucester Goneril. "Ha! Goneril with a white
beard? They flattered me like a dog, and told me I had white
hairs in my beard ere the black ones were there. To say
‘Ay’ and ‘no’ too was no good divinity…Go to, they are
not men o’ their words! They told me I was everything. ‘Tis
a lie- I am not ague-proof." This quote shows Lear’s sanity.
Lear may have qualities in him to make him seem mad but he
possess sanity, enough to know the cause of his madness.
This possession of sanity soon brings King Lear to his
moment of tragic vision. King Lear’s moment of tragic vision
comes when he is rescued by Cordelia and wakes up in her
presence. At first King Lear shows signs of sanity through
his speech to Cordelia and Kent about his recognition of him
being mad. " I feel I am not in my perfect mind." [iv, vii, 63]
King Lear than recovers enough to know that he is in the
presence of his daughter Cordelia, which he did not know
before. "Do not laugh at me; for (as I am a man) I think this
lady to be my child Cordelia." [iv, vii, 67-69]. The phase of
the end of King Lear’s madness is when he finally admits he
was wrong and asks for forgiveness. "Pray you now, forget
and forgive. I am old and foolish." [iv, vii, 84]. This is the
moment of tragic vision or demonic epiphany because King
Lear confesses to his mistake but it is too late because he
has already lost everything. But in order for King Lear to
finally admit to his mistakes, he has to be sane. A person has
to be in a clear state of mind in order to come up with the
notion that they have done something wrong, and being a
King with such hubris, to admit that