The Shakespearean Canon

1325 WordsJun 19, 20186 Pages
Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right: Lear’s Fool and Cymbeline’s Cloten and Their Social Significance Clowns and Jesters abound throughout the Shakespearean canon, and the Bard’s later plays are no exception. In this paper I plan to examine the later Shakespearean fool, particularly King Lear’s Fool and Cymbeline’s Cloten and how they represent various political and social ideas. First, I will examine the historical significance of both Fool and Cloten’s station, their historic relevance, and similarities to other socio-political archetypes. Next, I will look at how Lear’s Fool and Cloten reflect the idea of progress by revolutionary derailment of main characters inspiring monarchical overturn and progress. Third, I will…show more content…
For Cloten, if the shirt, that is, the mantle he bears is stained with blood – status and family he will “shift” it, subtly suggesting that if blood ties are what deter his ambition, he has every intent to seek change in them. Both The Fool and Cloten display tinges of revolutionary behavior. They work in different ways as disrupters and agents of change for the main characters, either on purpose or principle. As stated before, Lear’s Fool is a paradox of station. Low in class representation, he is an agent of persuasion to the aging former monarch still laboring under the delusion that he has any power. He walks the fine line of a double edged sword of critiquing the character whose favor The Fool’s own livelihood and indeed life depend on. With the prowess of a bee, he insults Lear, as a matter of correcting unsound thought: “Thou hads’t little wit in thy bald crown when thou gavest thy golden one” (1.4.130-132). The Fool is folly personified, and yet as Stephen Greenblatt says in the plays introduction, his, “unnerving perceptive observations sound far more corrosive than loving” (Norton 2331). His acts are corrective for Lear and do, at length, work to coerce him back to a more virtuous and informed thought. Cloten, conversely the over entitled blood-noble prat, is the proverbial dog chasing the car. He comes close to capturing the crown, but his ineptness makes the reader of viewer wonder what exactly he would do
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