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King Lear, Starring Ian McKellen

A Scene of Madness

While King Lear seems to be about the madness of Lear, the play is actually saturated with various kinds of madness. Edmund is deranged in some ways. Kent’s behavior towards Oswald makes no sense. The daughters obviously lose it, and the Fool certainly puts on an antic disposition. For his part, Edgar feigns madness in ways that suggest satire, not insanity. Furthermore, one cannot easily distinguish madness from anger at many moments. What does the play say about madness? How does it connect madness with moral responsibility? Is madness an individual state, or a collective one? If one “intends” to be mad, is he mad? At what point does madness require Bedlam, complete segregation from the community? Does the metaphor of madness in the play suggest a kind of Bedlam, an extreme alienation, among the play’s manifold characters?