Role Of The Fools In Hamlet And King Lear.

Utkarsha Srivastava
Jul 30, 2019   •  268 views

The term Fool can be defined as a “silly person lacking intellect’’ in general aspect but in literary context he is someone “who professionallycounterfeitsfollyforthe entertainmentof others’’.


Hamlet, one of the best Shakespearean tragedies ever, talks about the greater tragic flaw that Hamlet suffered from. Aristotle explained the term Hamartia, which means a flaw in the character of the person which brings about the downfall of the person. Hamlet suffers from the tragic flaw of indecisivenes and jealousy and also from Oedipus Complex. The fools in the Shakespearean tragedies work as a comic relief for the audience. The tragedy becomes so intense that the writer has to bring about a relief for the people watching and here comes the fool. The fool also acts as the mouthpiece of the writer and so does Yorick and the gravedigger in Hamlet. There is a moral lesson in each of Shakespeare’s great tragedies but there is no moral universe in Hamlet. There is no order and no reason in the chaotic world that Shakespeare creates in hamlet.Perhaps the only character that finds sense in this chaotic world is “ Grave Digger”, the fool of hamlet. The fool is the voice of reason, who jokes about death as he digs up a grave for an eminent funeral.He realizes that the socially prominent people gets special favours over the commeners- Ophelia, high- bred girl who committed suicide. Thus Shakespeare uses the character of the Grave Digger to tell the subersive truths.

Another fool in hamlet is Yorick, the dead court jester whose skull is exhumed by the Grave Digger in Act V, scene I of the play. The sight of Yorick’s skull evokes a monologue from Prince Hamlet on mortality:

“ Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him well.”

So both the fools in Hamlet explicitly bring the idea of death into light

King Lear

KingLear’s fool is perhapsis the purest court jester in Shakespeare’s plays .In KingLear, the fool acts as a commentator on events and is one of the characters who who is fearless in speaking the truth.

Shakespeare has the ability to reveal a human character with exceptional use of language and The Fool is one such character; he is not simply to serve one purpose, but many. He acts as Lear’s conscience and trust guide yet is a critic of Lear. They have a fascinating relationship throughout the play. The Fool reminds Lear of his mistakes and manipulates his feelings into realising them.

The Fool acts as a social commentator throughout the play, occasionally making reference to the world. He can also be described as Lear’s alter ego and is an image of genuine hope in the play. He is a peripheral character, acting as a narrator pointing out the foolishness taking place around them. Although the fool does not add a lot of action to the plot, he is a subtle key figure in the making of the play. He gives the audience a cathartic release, allowing them to let out their emotions through him.

“Maybe The Fool was a vehicle for the voice of Shakespeare himself.”

Hence the fool is the only character inShakespearean plays who escapes the dramatic whirlwind that tosses the other characters around. Be it the multi-coloured dress adorn with a cap or the courtly garments, they excel in amusing us with their jokes as well as keep us spell- bound us with their unmatching wit. Shakespearean fools are the diamonds of his legacy whose personalities ornament his play likes encrusted jewels.