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It has always seemed strange to me that we do not have a name for Lear's Fool. This most wonderful of all Shakespeare's court jesters is always in the shadow of Lear. We have a name for characters as insignificant as Curan, who has such a brief appearance in the play, and even for Oswald, who for most can't be much more than a knavish messenger, but we do not have a name for the Fool. Could it be that most people in Lear's world didn't know the real identity of the Fool in much the same way today that many do not bother to find out the real identity of a clown?  There is no need for us in examining the Fool to take the route that has been taken by too much higher criticism in etherealizing the Fool away. The Fool is as real as Poor Tom or any other character in the play.


         We first hear that Lear has a Fool in 1.3 where Goneril is annoyed that Lear has struck her gentleman (who will later be called Oswald) for chiding his Fool. Was this just the spark that started the action against Lear, as Empson suggests,[1] or is there something more here? What did this gentleman chide the Fool about?  Is there anything in the fact that this gentleman should be struck by the King? 


         There is no warrant for having the Fool on the stage before 1.4, as one recent production permitted, and this is not until we, and perhaps the Fool, have seen Kent's successful disguise, and his re-acceptance into the service of Lear. The scene commences with the audience being given confirmation that Kent has chosen "banishment here" rather than "freedom...hence". Lear returns from the hunt (1.3.8) and calls for his dinner. He interviews Kent, and then calls for his knave, his Fool, sending an attendant to look for the Fool. We have not seen the Fool yet, and who is it that enters at this point? Goneril's gentleman, who now enters in his capacity as Steward for the first time in the Quarto. He has been designated Steward already in the Folio. In the Folio this calling for the Fool followed immediately by the entry of Steward occurs twice, at lines 575 and 608. A standard theatrical procedure for introducing characters to audiences watching Shakespearean plays is to call them on stage. This double entry of the Steward following Lear's call for his Fool could at least put the thought in the audience's mind that this is the Fool but that Lear does not recognise him, especially as the Steward is addressed as "sirrah" called a "clotpoll" then "sir" sarcastically, then "my Lord's knave" (Lear was as much his Lord as is Albany), and is accused of bandying looks with the king, which perhaps was not unlike "the squand'ring glances of the fool" mentioned by Jaques in As You Like It 2.7.57. Kent trips him up, offers to teach him propriety and questions his wisdom. He has behaved in a very foolish manner before the King. He has been as familiar and almost as foolish with Lear as Jack Oates was with Sir William in Armin's story of Jack Oates. Finally, after all this calling for the Fool we have the arrival of the unnamed motley Fool, but not before the King has been shown to be gullible enough not to notice that he has hired his banished Kent, and not before a suspicious character who behaves very insolently has entered, twice in the Folio, at the calling for the Fool.


         Leslie Hotson, in Shakespeare's Motley[2], gives us an interesting insight into James' court which is worthwhile having before us here at this point.

                 Though Elizabeth's court had no lack of voluntary wits bestirring themselves 'for conceit's sake and to minister occasion of merriment,' decency was not forgotten. Not so under James, where horseplay and coarser obscenities passed for wit, and knights vied in out-buffooning the professional Fools for their prince's favour. Sir John Finett - later Master of Ceremonies - wrote bawdy songs for Sir Edward Zouch to sing to James; and, as the contemporary and contemptuous Sir Anthony Weldon has it,

                                  After the King supped, he would come forth to see pastimes and fooleries; in which Sir Edward Zouch, Sir George Goring, and Sir John Finit were the chiefe and Master Fools, (and surely the fooling got them more than any other's wisdom) sometimes presenting David Droman and Archee Armstrong, the King's foole, on the back of other fools, to tilt one another, till they fell together by the eares: some times they performed antick-dances. But Sir John Millicent, (who was never known before) was commended for notable fooling; and was indeed the best extempory foole of them all.

                 This account of Weldon's has been discounted as libellous. There is however reason to believe that he is not exaggerating the abuse. So notorious grew this blot on the dignity of knighthood, that in their acted plays both Chapman and Day pointed a scornful finger at it:

                          A pleasant fellow, 'faith; it seems my lord

                          Will have him for his jester: and by'r lady,

                          Such men are now fools; 'tis a knight's place.

                                  - Bussy D'Ambois (1604), 1.1.196-8

                          Demetrius. Was your wit knighted in this last action?

                          Manasses. I am not such a fool...I am no knight; I am Manasses they made a plain fool.

                                  - The Ile of Guls (1606), 5.1

It is interesting to compare this scene given to us by Anthony Weldon with the events of Lear 1.4. In both we have a king around supper time, we have the tripping of people until they fall, we have knights seeking the King's favour, we have the singing of songs to the King[3], and we have the talk of gaining or having wisdom. Although it is not mentioned by Weldon, James also loved to hunt. Indeed it was his chief occupation during the early years of his reign. In Weldon's account we have a pattern of behaviour that could well be looked at as either having given rise to, or arising out of, Shakespeare's scene.


         Let us now make the assumption that is usually made today, and with good justification, that the same boy actor in Shakespeare's troop who played Cordelia also played the Fool. What might an audience have thought on the arrival of the Fool? What would they have made of "my pretty knave" (1.4.94)?  "Pretty" had a variety of meanings for Elizabethans one of which was used to describe girls disguised as boys[4].  In Shakespeare's The Two  Gentlemen of Verona, Host questions Julia who is disguised as a boy "Why, my pretty youth?" (4.2.56). The Reuells Booke for 1605 shows Shakespeare's troupe performing "A play of the Marchant of Venis" on Shrousunday, and then "On Shroutusday A play cauled The Mart-/chant of Venis againe commauded by the Kings Matie".[5]  In The Merchant of Venice Portia proposes that she and Nerissa will go in disguise as men and "see our husbands /Before they think of us." Nerissa asks "Shall they see us?" and Portia explains:

                     They shall, Nerissa; but in such a habit,               

                     That they shall think we are accomplished

                     With that we lack.  I'll hold thee any wager,

                     When we are both accoutred like young men,

                     I'll prove the prettier fellow of the two,

                     And wear my dagger with the braver grace,

                     And speak between the change of man and boy

                     With a reed voice, and turn two mincing steps

                     Into a manly stride, and speak of frays

                     Like a fine bragging youth, and tell quaint lies,

                     How honourable ladies sought my love,                  

                     Which I denying, they fell sick and died;

                     I could not do withal; then I'll repent,

                     And wish for all that, that I had not killed them;

                     And twenty of these puny lies I'll tell,

                     That men shall swear I have discontinued school

                     Above a twelvemonth.  I have within my mind

                     A thousand raw tricks of these bragging Jacks,

                     Which I will practise.  (3.4.60ff)[6]

Clearly Shakespeare could have expected King James to have understood "my pretty knave" to have suggested a female disguised as a male. In As You Like It 3.2.330 Orlando asks Rosalind, who is disguised as Ganymede, "Where dwell you, pretty youth?" At 3.5.064, Phebe says to the disguised Rosalind, "Sweet youth, I pray you chide a year together", and at 3.5.113 she says of Rosalind, "It is a pretty youth." At 4.1.001 Jaques says to the disguised Rosalind,  "I prithee, pretty youth, let me be better acquainted with thee", and finally, at 4.3.007, Silvius says to Rosalind, still in disguise, "My errand is to you, fair youth." There are only five or six years between the composition of As You Like It and Lear. With the actor who had played Cordelia now playing Fool, this first description of the Fool would surely create a problem for any member of the audience that had also seen As You Like It if it were not Shakespeare's intention to convey the idea of a female disguised as a male here. To anyone in the audience who had seen Leir there might have been a reminder of Gonorill's description of Cordella as a "prety piece" at line 470[7].


         If the audience has seen the doubling up of the actor playing Cordelia and Fool, what are they to make of the Fool's statement to Kent, "this fellow hath banish'd two on's daughters, and done the third a blessing against his will" 1.4.100? The Fool is perhaps wanting to give the impression here that Cordelia has been blessed in that she has gone to France where she is now the queen. But the word "blessing" might have recalled Cordelia's wish (1.1.272), "But yet alas stood I within his grace, I would prefer him to a better place". Since the two daughters who were not banished by Lear are here said to have been banished, the audience might conclude that the daughter who was banished has, like Kent, managed to get around the banishment against Lear's will, which was not to see her face again sending her out "Without our grace, our love, our benison?" (1.1.264). Benison means blessing. The audience might even go so far as seeing Cordelia here trying to team up with Kent whom she has just warned of the folly involved in getting hired to serve one "that's out of favour".


         Lear now calls the Fool "my boy" for the first time, and Fool will throw it back at Lear the next time he uses the epithet, in the same way Clowne, who has a beard, throws it back at Wagner in Dr. Faustus[8] 1.4.1-3. It is interesting to note that Lear is the only one in the Quarto who ascribes masculinity to Fool, while in the Folio there is only one other instance of this when Goneril addresses the Fool as "Sir" at line 834. Goneril's "Sir" is immediately followed by "A fox when one has caught her..." about which we will have more to say later.  Scene 4 ends with Lear saying to the Fool, "Come boy" which will be followed by "She that's a maid now..." This repeated juxtaposing of "boy" with "her" and "she" would only serve to confuse an audience seeing the same boy actor playing both Cordelia and Fool if the Fool were not meant to be Cordelia. The use of "boy" could suggest however, that Lear's Fool had been a boy!


         The Fool will next attempt to teach Lear a speech which begins (1.4.116) with the telling words,

                 have more than thou showest,

                 speak less than thou knowest,

to which Lear in the Quarto, Kent in the Folio, will respond by saying, "This is nothing, Fool". The Fool then says, "you gave me nothing for't", which was precisely what Cordelia had been given earlier for her "Nothing", and then the Fool will ask, "Can you make no use of nothing, Nuncle?" If this is meant to be Cordelia disguised as Fool, then she has made use of her nothing, she has become the Fool, and Lear in making use of her is making use of one whom he has made nothing!  Lear then restates the maxim he had earlier given to Cordelia, that "Nothing can be made out of nothing." Fool asks Kent to tell Lear "so much the rent of his land comes to" adding "he will not believe a fool", which was precisely his problem in dealing with Cordelia, Lear would not believe her reasoning around the word "nothing" in the love contest. The resumption of the theme of "nothing" pointing to Cordelia's being the Fool has a parallel in Lear's dealings with Kent before and after he goes into disguise. At 1.1.158-179 we have the argument between Lear and Kent involving the gods Apollo and Jupiter. Later when the disguised Kent in the stocks is met by Lear there is a similar argument this time involving the gods Jupiter and Juno (2.4.11-21). The latter argument is connected to the former by the gods.


         Lear calls his Fool a bitter Fool, which prompts Fool to ask if Lear knows the difference "between a bitter fool, and a sweet fool." This is reminiscent, in its comparison and its format, of the prose question followed by verse explanation, of Armin's,

                 Here you haue heard the diffrence twert a Flat foole naturall, and a Flat foole artificiall, one that had his kinde, and the other who foolishly followed his owne minde: on which two is written this rime.

                          Naturall fooles are prone to selfe conseit,

                          Fooles artificiall, with their wits lay waite

                          To make themselues fooles, likeing the disgusies,

                          To feede their owne mindes and the gazers eyes.

                          He that attempts daunger and is free,

                          Hurting himselfe, being well cannot see:

                          Must with the Fiddler heere weare the fooles


                          And bide his pennance sign'd him by Iacke Oates.

                          All such say I that vse flat foolery,

                          Beate this, beare more, this flat fooles company.

Armin's artificial fool was the gentleman that had usurped the place of Sir William's natural fool, Jack Oates. Here in Lear we have, in the Quarto at 1.4.155, the little verse explaining the difference between the sweet and bitter fool.

                 That lord that counsail'd thee to giue away thy land,

                 Come place him heere by mee, doe thou for him stand,

                 The sweet and bitter foole will presently appeare,

                 The one in motley here, the other found out there.

This verse, along with the response to it, was cut from the Folio perhaps because of the reference to monopolies and perhaps because of a glance at James who was crowned King of Scotland at thirteen months of age. It is also possible that it was cut because of a glance at Oswald which could have been expected of those who were familiar with Leir in 1606 but not so much of later audiences not so familiar with Leir.  For anyone who was familiar with the old play, "That Lord that counsail'd thee to giue away thy land" would most likely have suggested Skalliger. In the opening scene of Leir, Leir seeks his Lords' "graue aduice" as to the wisdom of his proposal that he would divide his crown between his three daughters. One of the lords, Skalliger replies (beginning line 10):

                 A worthy care, my Leige, which well declares,

                 The zeale you bare vnto our quondam Queene:

                 And since your Grace hath licens'd me to speake,

                 I censure thus: Your Maiesty knowing well,

                 What seuerall Suters your princely daughters haue,

                 To make them each a Ioynter more or lesse,

                 As is their worth, to them that loue professe.

Leir then tells the Lords how he is partial to Cordella, and Skalliger hurries off to warn Gonorill and Ragan of the proposed love contest. Gonorill, out of appreciation, assures Skalliger that his kindness shall not be unrequited. In the rest of the old play Skalliger has a role like Oswald's in Lear. While the Fool is probably only wanting to draw attention to Lear's folly in giving away his land, the words, "That Lord that counsail'd thee", could have suggested Oswald to an audience familiar with Leir[9].  Lear could be seen to stand for (Skalliger) Oswald, though he doesn't know it, for he can only remember that it was his own idea to divide the country, and so he replies "Do'st thou call me Fool boy?" The division of the land on the basis of the love test comes to the Fool's (Cordelia's) mind with the talk of "nothing" since this was Cordelia's fatal response to the love test.  Remember that, according to Weldon, Bussy D'Ambois and The Ile of Guls, in James' court it was the knights or lords who were coming into James' presence disguised as Fools. I am proposing that Oswald was, in Shakespeare's scheme of things, one of those lords in Lear's court. He tipped off Goneril and Regan, which is why their speeches were so well prepared, as they were also in Leir, and Oswald has now entered the service of Goneril as her gentleman. The words, "If you come slack of former services" (1.3.10), as well as suggesting services rendered to Lear in Goneril's residence, might also have been meant to suggest, to an audience familiar with Leir, the services Skalliger (Oswald) performed for Lear while he was a knight in his service.


         To Elizabethans, "presently" most usually meant immediately or instantly, but it could have the meaning of a short space of time[10]. The Oxford English Dictionary gives several meanings including - 1. "So as to be, or as being, present; in presence; in the very place, on the spot; in person, personally", and 4. "In the space of time that immediately follows, in a little while, before long, after a short time, soon, shortly." If Shakespeare meant 1, then Fool is saying, the bitter fool will appear in this very place as Oswald will do before the end of this scene. If 4, then before long, before the end of the scene, Oswald will appear and be "found out" as the bitter Fool. Shakespeare could have used the word "instantly" here if that is what he really meant. He used it three times elsewhere in Lear[11]. "Sweet Fool", like "Sweet youth" As You Like It 3.5.64, might also suggest a female disguised as a male.


         The Fool speaks of how Lear had little wit when he gave away his gold crown, and then says, "if I speak like myself in this let him be whipp'd that first finds it so." If Cordelia is the Fool, she has also given away her crown, two in fact, because she could be in France wearing the French Queen's crown, and perhaps the audience could have seen this as Cordelia saying that if any other fool wants to point out her folly, he is to be whipped for speaking truth. In two more speeches the Fool will complain of being whipped for speaking true. The expression "if I speak like myself in this" is similar to Duke Vincentio's comment to Lucio in Measure for Measure[12] (5.1.343) when, disguised as a friar, he says, "I protest I love the Duke as I love myself." "Myself" is understood by Lucio to be a friar just as here "myself" would appear to be the Fool. But "myself" actually was the Duke as it looks very much like "myself" here in Lear is meant to be Cordelia. I have wondered whether Shakespeare intended some sort of connection between these words of the Fool and Cordelia's words earlier in the play "And like a sister am most loth to call your faults as they are named." (1.1.269,279). The Fool then sings the song (1.4.163-166),

                 Fools had ne're less wit [grace - Folio] in a year,

                 For wise men are grown foppish,

                 They know not how their wits do wear,

                 Their manners are so apish

which appears to be having a go at the likes of Oswald, who is a wise man (who make good fools - Cf. Twelfth Night 3.1.62) whose manners are so foppish, it's as though he were aping the Fool. Actually, we will see that the Fool is aping Oswald, and this song is perhaps the Fool's way of trying to put the people of Lear's world off thinking that the Fool is in fact usurping Oswald's role. In the first line of the song the Fool appears to be saying that Fools are likely to be put out of business by fops like Oswald. Oswald has played the Fool so long that he is a wise man "folly-fall'n" who has quite tainted his wit - cf. Twelfth Night 3.1.70.


         Lear asks the Fool "When were you wont to be so full of songs sirra?" The Fool's response is that it has been since Lear gave away his crown to Goneril and Regan, precisely the time Cordelia would have gone into the Fool's motley to avoid detection in Lear's court. The Fool then asks for a schoolmaster to "teach thy Fool to lie, I would fain learn to lie." This, of course, was Cordelia's problem in the beginning. She couldn't "speak and purpose not" like her sisters, and she has been having difficulty keeping her mind in the mode of the Fool, because that involves deception. She is used to speaking truth. Truth was her dowry 1.1.107. Fool next complains that Goneril and Regan will "have me whipp'd for speaking true,"  which can be compared with 1.4.109 "Truth's a dog must to kennel; he must be whipp'd out when the Lady's Brach may stand by th'fire and stink." Cordelia, truth, is out, and Oswald, "dog" over and over in the play, stands by the fire inside. "Thou wilt have me whipp'd for lying," as here threatened, "and sometime I am whipp'd for holding my peace" as Cordelia was, in a sense, in the beginning when she said "Nothing" and like a sister refused to name her sister's faults. The Fool, reflecting on the role of a Fool, says, "I had rather be any kind of thing then a fool," as if there were another option which Fool knew of and yet was deliberately not exercising. But the Fool would not be Lear who is now a "0 without a figure" or nothing, precisely what he had made Cordelia. But since she has become the Fool, she is "now" better than Lear who has rejected the title Fool and given away all his other titles leaving nothing!


         Lear meets Goneril's accusation, that he is encouraging riots among his followers, with the question, "Are you our daughter?" But this follows immediately upon the Fool's words about the cuckoo. Lear, of course, is addressing Goneril, but the juxtaposition of the speeches could cause members of the audience to suspect that the Fool is Cordelia. Similarly, Goneril's response (1.4.217-220),

                 I would you would make use of your good wisdom,

                 Whereof I know you are fraught; and put away

                 These dispositions which of late transport you

                 From what you rightly are

could be applied to Cordelia disguised as the Fool, except that the Quarto begins the speech, with "Come sir,...."  Lear then asks, "Does anyone here know me?" The audience knows who Lear is, but the question that could have been in the audience's mind is, who is the Fool? Lear next questions Goneril's identity with the words, "Your name fair gentlewoman?" But this question, like his earlier one "Are you our daughter?" is juxtaposed with a statement by the Fool - "Which they [Goneril and Regan] will make an obedient father" in the Quarto, and "Lear's shadow" in the Folio. Following Goneril's further protest Lear determines to go to Regan with the words, "Yet have I left a daughter." Now the audience knows her heart already, both from the sources and Lear to this point, and they know Cordelia's intention also from the sources and from her earlier claims in this play, and could have seen her here in the Fool.


         At 1.4.264-265 Lear begins to speak of his folly in the way he treated Cordelia, and then a little later 1.4.303-304 he says again, "yet have I left a daughter, whom I am sure is kind and comfortable". Think of the potential for dramatic irony here where Lear is thinking of Regan, but the audience knows Regan's heart and suspects that Cordelia is the kind and comforting Fool who is caring for Lear. Lear had hoped to set his rest "On her kind nursery" 1.1.123.


         Goneril next calls for Oswald. She has to do this twice in the Folio, but only once in the Quarto, before Oswald comes. This could parallel the fact that in the Folio Oswald has already come on stage twice at the call for the Fool, but only once in the Quarto. Could it be that these changes from Quarto to Folio reflect an attempt to show that Oswald is used to responding to the call for the Fool but not for Oswald, which is perhaps a name he has assumed now that he is no longer in Lear's service, his real name being Skalliger? Goneril accuses the Fool of being "more knave than fool" but the Fool will later reject the term "knave" and it will be well and truly plastered on Oswald by Kent. The Fool runs off stage after Lear, but not before saying:

                 A Fox, when one has caught her,

                  And such a Daughter,

                 Should sure to the Slaughter,

                 If my Cap would buy a Halter,

                 So the Foole follows after.

Robert Goldsmith tells us that occasionally the fool may have worn a fox tail behind[13]. Antonio, the artificial fool in Middleton and Rowley's The Changeling, 1653, is apparently wearing a fox-skin. Lollio, his keeper, tells him:

                 I shall not forebear the gentleman under the fool; if you do; alas, I saw through your fox-skin before now.[14]

The fox in the Fool's verse is a fool, the fool is a female, and a daughter! This could be viewed as Fool speaking about Goneril, but it is Cordella in at least one source, as well as in Lear, who is hanged, not Goneril. Lear will ask Cordelia, after she has given up the coxcomb, if he has "caught" her, 5.3.21, and refer to himself and Cordelia as "foxes", 5.3.23. After this Cordelia will go "sure to the slaughter". This verse is prophetic of the future of the Fool, Cordelia. Oswald appears on stage for a brief period just after Fool has departed, which allows the audience to observe this fop the Fool has been talking about.


         In Scene 5 we follow Lear, Kent and Fool, and hear the Fool warn Lear that Regan will use him as kindly as Goneril has. The Fool claims, "I can tell what I can tell" which would perhaps remind the audience of Cordelia's words, "I know you what you are" 1.1.268. The Fool then speaks of spying into what one cannot smell out, which is very much like the disguised Autolycus' words to the Shepherd, in The Winter's Tale 4.4.733, "receives not thy nose court-odour from me?" Lear again speaks of having done Cordelia wrong. The Fool then reverses normal procedure, testing Lear in the manner that real lack wits were questioned, and then suggests that Lear would make a good Fool!


         Lear continues to call the Fool "boy" which leads to the couplet that completes the scene and Act 1.

                 She that's a maid now, and laughs at my departure,

                 Shall not be a maid long, except things be cut shorter.

The maid in this couplet could be any young virgin in the audience, as is the normal interpretation. But from Leir line 736 we learn that Cordella's marriage to France was not to be celebrated until they got to France. The maid in this couplet could be Cordelia. The words "Laughs at my departure" could be a reference to the Fool's departure from the play after saying, "And I'll go to bed at noon." It will not sadden the Fool, Cordelia, that the motley Fool is gone because, since she has been the Fool, she can then take up her role as Queen of France. There was usually laughter when a Fool appeared on the scene and disappointment when he departed not to return. We see this laughter when in Lear Act 1 the Fool arrives, and in Act 5 we see the disappointment when Lear realises "Thou'lt come no more...." But Cordelia will be happy at the departure of the Fool. However, Cordelia won't be a maid, or virgin, long after her departure from the stage as Fool, "except things be cut shorter." It seems to me that these words, rather than being a reference to men's penises being cut off to ensure the preservation of the virginity of girls in the audience, which interpretation may have been viewed as a threat to King James' daughter's virginity in the original production, are referring to the apocalyptic days of tribulation which were to be cut shorter so that the elect would be saved (Matthew 24:21,22). The couplet can then be understood to be saying prophetically, "She (as opposed to a "boy") that is a maid (Cordelia is a maid, a virgin, if she is the Fool, since her marriage to France has not yet been consummated) now, and laughs at my departure (will be happy in a little while when the Fool departs from the play after saying, "I'll go to bed at noon" because she will then take up her French Queen's crown), Shall not be a maid long (she will die), except things (the days of tribulation mentioned in Matthew 24:21,22) be cut shorter (for the elects' sake)." In Leir Cordella is the elect Queen of England. The motivation for the Fool's couplet will be seen later in chapter 5.


         The significance of Biblical imagery in this play is the subject of the next chapter. It will be clear that the events of the play occur at a time when some people believe the world is about to end. The play uses the imagery of Matthew 24 and several other passages often considered "end-time" passages in the Bible. King James and many people of the day, though not necessarily Shakespeare, believed they were living in the latter days. There can be no doubt that Shakespeare could expect that James, who had already published a meditation on the book of Revelation, with cross-references to Matthew 24 and Luke 23, could have made this interpretation of the couplet.


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[1]. King Lear ed. K. Muir (Arden edition, London, 1972) footnote to 1.3.1,2.


[2]. L. Hotson, Shakespeare's Motley (New York, 1971) p. 20.


[3]. This will happen when Fool arrives, and the King will draw attention to the novelty.


[4]. It will have a different meaning when the Fool will use the word at 1.4.189.


[5]. P. Cunningham, Extracts From The Accounts of the Revels At Court, In the Reigns of Queen Elizabeth and King James I., From the Original Office Books of the Masters and Yeomen. (London, 1842) pp. 204,5.


[6]. The Merchant of Venice The Complete Works of William Shakespeare ed. W.J.Craig (Oxford University Press, London, 1959). Shakespeare could have had her say "more handsome" (cf. Hamlet 2:2;474, and the many other places where "handsome" applies to good looking men).


[7]. Anyone in the audience who had seen Leir might already have associated the Fool with Cordelia since they have already heard Lear say that he has not seen the Fool for two days (1.4.70), and the Servant/Knight say that the Fool has "much pined away" (1.4.72). In Leir it is Cordella who has not been seen by her sisters since her banishment from Leir's presence (473 - 474), and Cordella who says "I would abstayne from any nutryment,/ And pyne my body to the very bones" (1079 - 1080).


[8]. THE TRAGICALL History of D. Faustus. As it hath bene Acted by the Right Honourable the Earle of Nottingham his seruants. Written by Ch. Marl. (LONDON, 1604).

[9]. Goneril will shortly enter and complain of Lear's "all-licensed Fool", which may have been meant to correspond with Skalliger's statement that Leir had "licens'd me to speake." This is the only place in both plays where "licence" is spoken of, and the only time "all-licensed" is used in the whole of Shakespeare.

[10]. As an example of this consider the following excerpt from the 1605 play When You See Me, You Know Me.

                              Enter the King in Prison.

               King. Hoe, Porter, whose without there?

               Porter. Whats the matter now? will yee not goe to bed tonight?

               King. No trust me, twill be morning presently,

               And I haue hope I shall be bailde ere then:

               I prethe if thou canst, entreate some of the prisoners to keepe me companie a paire of houres, or so: and weele spend them ethe rouse of healthes, and all shall be my cost.


[11]. At 3.3.22; 3.7.4; and 5.3.37.


[12]. A Mesure for Mesure, by "Shaxberd" was performed before King James I on 26 December, 1604, exactly two years to the day before Lear was performed before James. See Introduction to The Signet Classic edition of Measure p.xxi.

[13]. R.H. Goldsmith, Wise Fools In Shakespeare (East Lansing, 1955) p. 2.


[14]. The Selected Plays of Thomas Middleton ed. D.L. Frost (Cambridge, 1978). 4.3.149.