ACT I, Scene 5
Lear is on his way to Regan's castle at Gloucester, accompanied by
the Fool. He has sent the disguised Kent ahead to announce his
arrival. The Fool comments on Lear's pathetic condition, asking
seemingly foolish questions that elicit a laugh from the King. But
the bantering soon descends into self-reproach and despair as the
King realizes that he may be mad. The Fool tries to calm the
King's anxieties with comments that have a great deal of wisdom
and common sense.
During the journey, Lear's thoughts wander back to the injustice he
had done to Cordelia. When he states his profound regrets, the
Fool aids him in his quest for self-realization. The Fool asks Lear,
"Why a snail has a house?" The Fool answers himself by saying,
"Why, to put his head in; not to give it away to his daughters, and
leave his horns without a case." With wit, he reveals the absurdity
of the King's actions in renouncing his authority without thinking
of the unnaturalness of the act. He adds, "Thou should'st not have
been old till thou hadst been wise." He then cautions Lear that
Regan will probably not act any better than Goneril.
This scene describes Lear's tormented state of mind. He is
accompanied only by the Fool and a Gentleman as he travels
toward the castle of Regan. Having lost all power and wealth that
he had as King, his mind is beset with regrets and a fear for the
future. He begs to the Almighty, "O, let me not be mad, not mad,
sweet Heaven!" As the Fool comments on Lear's strange behavior,
his humor acts as a counterpoint to the King's state of mind. He
particularly mocks Lear's foolishness in giving away his power to
his daughters and expecting Regan to behave better than Goneril.
The brief scene is filled with the Fool's humor in which is hidden a
great deal of wisdom.