King Lear’s Fool and Don Quixote’s Squire: Comparative Study

The very first time the Fool goes into in Shakespeare’s King Lear he instantly uses Kent his coxcomb, or jester’s hat. Lear asks the Fool “My pretty knave, how dost thou?” (1.4.98) This preliminary action and questions of the Fool is agent of the relationship in between the Fool and the other characters throughout the whole play. In basic, the Fool will state something ridiculous, or act relatively illogically, and then discuss his words and/or actions to let the reader understand that he is really the wisest male in the play. In the event discussed above the Fool unexplainably provides his coxcomb to Kent. Initially it seems that the Fool is simply being foolish, for even the King can not figure out the meaning of the Fool’s action and words. After he explains himself, nevertheless, the reader realizes that the Fool is not only not a fool, however in truth has a sharper wit than the King’s.

A similar scenario presents itself in Cervante’s Don Quixote. Much more so than King Lear, Don Quixote is out of his mind, and even though his squire, Sancho Panza, is continuously trying to assist Don Quixote recapture his wits by explaining his various ridiculous hallucinations, Don Quixote usually declines to listen to his inferior servant. It must be noted that both a king’s fool and a knight’s squire are positions of thrall; the fool is used for entertainment purposes while the squire is a sort of knight janitor (pun intended). However as both Shakespeare and Cervantes mention, these servants of powerful guys are being utilized for the incorrect functions, and their words of wisdom are brushed aside by the guys who need them most. If King Lear and Don Quixote had listened to their “foolish” servants, they both would have been spared terrific pain, and ultimately their lives.

By the end of both King Lear and Don Quixote the reader is left questioning: why were the morons the kings and knights while the real smart males were the fools and squires? There are many explanations for why Shakespeare and Cervantes both selected this specific type of irony. One explanation that is made especially obvious in both works is that the paradoxical turnaround of functions, where the leaders are the fools and the servants the smart males, highlights the oppressions suffered by the lower classes, not due to the fact that they are intellectually inferior, but since they lack money. There are many scenes throughout Don Quixote which highlight the fact that Sancho Panza never would have consented to the continuous suffering and terrible mishaps his master exposed him to unless there was a financial reward, in this case an island, guaranteed to him. Similarly, in King Lear, the Fool must stick with his master although he understands his master has actually “grown foppish” (1.4.171).

Despite their lack of wealth, nevertheless, both the Fool and the Squire are smart sufficient to recognize that they are much better off smart and bad rather than abundant and insane. Additionally, suppression of their intelligence is a needed part of their tasks. The Fool lets the reader know of his wise decision to avoid displaying his real intelligence through the words of his song “Have more than thou showest/Speak less than thou knowest” (1.4.122-3), along with when he says “I had rather be any example than a Fool. And yet I would not be thee, nuncle” (1.4.189-91). In Don Quixote we see that despite the fact that Sancho Panza desires economic success, he is comfortable with his peasant status: “Even if it’s just bread and onion that I consume in my corner without troubling about table manners and ceremonies, it tastes to me a good deal better than turkey at other tables where I need to chew slowly …” (85 ). For all his failures at social enhances, Sancho realizes that it is much better to be a peasant with no table manners than a gentleman who is so concerned with conventions and rules that he loses his mind.

Despite the fact that both the Fool and the squire both recognize that their livelihoods depend on masking the truth that they are more intelligent than their masters, there are times when they break through the character mold of the submissive servant. In King Lear the Fool comes dangerously near to letting the King know he is being mocked when the Fool says “The sweet and bitter fool/Will presently appear/The one in motley here/The other discovered there” (1.4.148-51). In this line the Fool is arguing that he is a “sweet fool”, due to the fact that he is aware of when he is being absurd, and therefore wears a “motley” or jester’s outfit. The King, who can not understand his recklessness up until after he has done something silly is the “bitter fool”. After the Fool points this out the King asks “Dost thou call me a? fool’ young boy?” (1.4.151) and the Fool quickly creates another joke to put the King’s mind at ease. Later in the scene, however, the King threatens to have the Fool whipped (1.4.185).

A similar circumstance arises between Don Quixote and Sancho Panza throughout their adventure in which they stay paralyzed in fear for a full night of what they discover in the morning to be six fulling-hammers. After this discovery Sancho Panza is so entertained by the unnecessary exclamations of gallantry and blowing Don Quixote had actually given the night before that he chuckles until “he needed to hold his sides for worry of rupturing” (p. 158). Like King Lear, however, Don Quixote is rather irate at being buffooned by his own servant. Cervantes composes “When Don Quixote understood that Sancho was making fun of him, he got so intensely upset that he lifted his lance and dealt him 2 blows which would have relieved the master of the responsibility of paying his squire’s wages … had they caught him on the head” (p. 158). Even though the servants in both works dare to mock their masters for a moment, it is temporary, and they quickly resume their obedient functions.

As Shakespeare writes in another one of his plays, Twelfth Night “This fellow’s sensible sufficient to play the fool/And to do that well longs for a sort of wit” (3.1.68). For all of their drawbacks, the Fool and Sancho Panza both have a particular type of wit that permits them to survive their masters’ crazy outbursts. Among the best ironies in both of these books is that the master requires the servant to serve, and he does, however not in the way that would best assist the master. Simply put both King Lear and Don Quixote would have been much better off had they employed their servants as reputable advisors. In both works these servants had a lot more good sense than the masters who employed them.

Lastly, the relationship in between a fool and a king (or in Cervantes’ case a knight and his squire) can be compared to a jester’s hat and a king’s crown. A jester’s hat, or coxcomb, is normally made from cloth, and is adorned with bells, while a king’s crown is made from gold and valuable gems. Both hats are gaudy and bring in a great deal of attention. The king’s crown, nevertheless is precious and important, whereas the lightweight jester’s cap simply makes noise. As Shakespeare and Cervantes have revealed, nevertheless, people have a tendency to respect the hat, and not the head below it, when evaluating character and intelligence.

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