Archive for November, 2016

“An O without a figure”: The Fool and the Concept of Zero in King Lear

November 8, 2016


The works of William Shakespeare offer many archetypes and symbols that appear in the cards, including many types of fools. The fools of Shakespeare’s earlier plays embodied the lighter and more entertaining aspects of the Fool’s character because they were written for the clownish Will Kemp, the wildly popular comic actor of Shakespeare’s troupe of players.  But when Kemp wandered off to Morris Dance his way from London to Norwich, Shakespeare had a new player to write for in his fool parts, Robert Armin, who was more suited to the roles of the wiser and wittier fools of Twelfth Night, As You Like It, and King Lear

Robert Armin

His treatment of the fool as a humorous clown evolved into a presentation of the fool as a reminder of the darker side of life and as a call to make sense of the world’s nonsense. This recognition of the encroaching darkness, the abyss, mirrored the experience of the British people as they moved from the expansionist mindset of the Elizabethan Age to the depression and fear of the Jacobean Age.