Viewed from a psychoanalytical perspective, King Lear is a Shakespearian tragedy involving madness, in more than one sense, and the causes and effects of this. There are many individual concepts to explore, and this exposition will investigate the following: the madness in Lear and how it progresses, absence of the mother, and the sexual relationship between Lear and his daughters. Lear lacks responsibility in terms of actively and willingly approaching his situations and confrontations blindly. This and his lack of self awareness and lack of awareness toward others, prove that the king is not a man “more sinned against than sinning”.
It seems quite clear that Shakespeare uses the word “mad” for at least the first part of the play in the sense of “extremely angry”, and only later, when Lear does lose touch with reality, does it then mean “not in his right mind” (insane). Lear is moving on a continuum that begins with extreme anger and progresses to a hallucinatory world. It is here Lear begins to recognise his wrongdoings, and why he is not a man “more sinned against than sinning”.
Lear’s madness is often seen simply as a man losing his head, but a closer psychoanalytical reading suggests that Lear’s madness is much more sharply focused in cause and effect, a particular manifestation of psychological breakdown carefully developed by Shakespeare. The following statements justify Lear’s madness, and although tragic, his mental state is a contributing factor in the King’s rash decisions and how he is not a man “more sinned against than sinning”.
The very first suggestion that Lear is confusing reality is in fact a jest. He pretends not to know Goneril – “Your name, fair gentlewoman?” (1.5.). He is actually playing the fool, with the Fool, and continuing the fool’s jesting. The next is a critical line – “Let me not be mad/keep me in temper” (1.5.37). Obviously Lear is using the word “mad” in the sense of extreme anger. Willing to expect loss of temper, the...