Wordy Wednesday – “That way madness lies”

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In Act III.iv of King Lear, Lear, Kent, and the Fool find themselves on a heath before a hovel.  It is stormy.  Kent urges Lear to enter the derelict little dwelling, believing that the “tyranny of the open night’s too rough / For nature to endure.”   Lear refuses to enter:

KING LEAR
Thou think’st ’tis much that this contentious storm
Invades us to the skin: so ’tis to thee;
But where the greater malady is fix’d,
The lesser is scarce felt. Thou’ldst shun a bear;
But if thy flight lay toward the raging sea,
Thou’ldst meet the bear i’ the mouth. When the mind’s free,
The body’s delicate: the tempest in my mind
Doth from my senses take all feeling else
Save what beats there. Filial ingratitude!
Is it not as this mouth should tear this hand
For lifting food to’t? But I will punish home:
No, I will weep no more. In such a night
To shut me out! Pour on; I will endure.
In such a night as this! O Regan, Goneril!
Your old kind father, whose frank heart gave all,–
O, that way madness lies; let me shun that;
No more of that.

Have you ever been really upset?  So upset that you can’t stop thinking about the distressing situation?

King Lear feels that the greatest storm is in his mind, in his ruminations.  He argues that one would not run away from a bear only to run towards a raging sea.  Similarly, Lear would not run away from an outdoor storm only to “run towards” an “indoor storm” – that is, the madness within.  He does not want to lose his mind.

Instead, Lear hopes that nature’s storm will distract him from his tempestuous thoughts, thoughts about how Regan and Goneril betrayed him.

Image from ClipArt ETC.

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