Cordelia and the Fool

    Molly Cincotta, in a 2004 in-class presentation on Lear, discovered the New Critical research that speculates on the possible relations between the characters of Cordelia and the Fool.  They never appear in scenes together.  When Cordelia is banished, the Fool appears at court, and several scenes before Cordelia returns from France, the Fool leaves the stage, saying cryptically that he'll go early to bed.  These observations, a product of NC "close reading" analysis, pay careful attention to the original texts of the work.  This evidence led critics to suspect that the same actor may have played both parts, or even that the characters play similar, if stylistically different, roles in relationship to Lear and the truth.  Both could be called "truth-tellers" in Lear's court, and both are threatened for their audacity in speaking as they do.  In this instance, though, the critics have stopped at an interesting point.  It's one thing to compare the dramatic functions of the two characters, but it's entirely another to compare their rhetorics, their cultural value system or function (so like the essays of Roland Barthes debunking French bourgeois culture for 1960s audiences!), or to play with them in diachronic analysis as a Reader-Response critic might do.  Do they use language similarly, or in some identifiabe pattern of difference?  Perhaps you might attempt this in a final paper?

 Morris, Ivor. “Cordelia and Lear.” Shakespeare Quarterly, Vol. 8, No. 2. (Spring, 1957), pp. 141-158.

 Stroup, Thomas B. “Cordelia and the Fool.” Shakespeare Quarterly, Vol. 12, No. 2. (Spring, 1961), pp. 127-132.