I'm from Kilkenny,Ireland.19 Years Old.Would Love to Chat.Laters.Bye xx :) :) The motif of disguise is prominent in King Lear. Two characters choose to change their apperal. Edgar and Kent. It is possible to draw upon a “progress narrative” approach to explain their motive for their disguise. Yet this explanation is insufficient. This paper suggest different methods of interpretation Historical elucidation that draws upon class conflict, which Shakespeare chooses to show through the conduct of his disguised character, is stressed. Yet another and different way seeing the function of disguises is exhibited in the paper: Edgar’s Tom and Kent’s Caius entail symbolic importance as the emblems of truth and regeneration in the play.
First and foremost, the motif of disguise in King Lear is defined in terms of “progress narrative”. “progress narrative”, according to Garber, is a story line that advances towards the fulfillment of specific goals. A character whose life story embodies “progress narrative”... is ‘compelled’ by social and economic forces to disguise himself or herself in order to get a job, escape repression, or gain artistic or political ‘freedom’ (Garber, 70). In King Lear, Edgar decides to “take the baset and most poorest shape” (2.3.7) in the form of mad “poor tom” out of the elementary imperative of self preservation. His bastard brother manipulates their father to believe in Edgar’s unreal intents of patricide and usurpation, so the latter, in order to escape’s the father’s deadly wrath, is left with no choice but to conceal his identity:
No port is free, no place/ That guard and most unusual vigilance/ Doest not attend my taking. Whiles I may’scape/ I will preserve my self... (2.3.3-6).
The main motive of another disguised character in the play can also be explained in terms of a “progress narrative”. Kent as a loyal and true advisor of Lear has put himself “between the Dragon and his wrath” (1.1.124). The former is being subject to the king’s outbursting ire and is doomed to banishment. But the ever – devoted and dutiful Kent is determind on adhering to his master. In order to do that, he decides to change his exterior disguising himself as Caius: “If but as well I other accents borrow / That can my speach defuse, my good intent/ May carry through itself to that full issue...” (1.4.1-3).
A “progress narrative” underlies the interpretation of other characters’ motives for disguising themselves in the Shakespearean corpus. In As You Like It Rosalind and Celia, like Kent in King Lear, are liable to banishment by their patron, Duke Frederick. Like Edgar of King Lear Whose face he “grime[s] with Filt” (2.3.9), Celia “with a kind of umber smirch[es] [her] face” (1.3.110). Rosalind decides to cross-dress:
...Because that I am more than common tall/ That I did suit me all pointes like a man?/ A gallant curtle-ax upon my thigh,/ A boar-spear in my hand... (1.3.113-116).
The decision of the two female heroins to change outward (and sexual) form is attributable to the same concern that guides Edgar in King Lear, self preservation. The text of As You Like It explicitly refers to that:
Also, what danger will it be to us,/ Maids as we, to travel forth so far !/ Beauty provoketh thieves sooner than gold. ...I’ll put myself in poor an mean attire... The like do you; so shall we pass along/ And never stir assailants (1.3.106-108, 109, 110-112).
Yet, to regard the disguise motif in Shakespeare’s plays in terms of a “progress narrative” only in insufficient. The shakespearean play is more than the sum of sequential events or the literal plot. The “progress narrative” approach concentrates on the story line, that is, the verbal representation of events. A character does X to achieve Y. From the point of view of the plot, for example, Edgar disguises himself so he can survive his father’s will to kill him. Characters and their actions (action of disguise) bear a more profound aspects the mere plot; their function embodies symbolic and allegorical implications. Weinsheimer’s argument about the nature of characters in relevant to that point:
...[characters] are textualized. As segmants of a closed text, Characters... are patterns of recurrence, motifs which are continually recontextualized in other motifs (Weinsheimer in Rimmon – Kenan, 32).
Thus, it is possible to interpret the disguise motif in the two shakespearean plays, King Lear and As You Like It, in historical terms. The characters and their action function as an allegory “of cultural conflict which the playwright reflects in his drama. Hegel claims that dramatic literature in its original form is concerned not with characters in conflict but with historical and cultural systems “individualizes in living personalities and situations pregnant with conflict” (Hegel in Fisch, 27). The historic – cultural conflict in King Lear, Colie identifies as the “crisis of the aristocracy” (Colie, 185-217). According to him, a class tension characterized the Elizabethan period. This dissonance is given attention in As You Like It and especially in King Lear. It is impossible, Colie further asserts, not to find in Shakespeare’s works a profound critique of aristocratic manners in particular the aspects of clothing. Contemporary preachers “...never ceased to bewail the ruinous frivolous preoccupation of the rich with their apparel” (Colie, 187). Lears’ complaint against the luxurious attire of Goneril is connected to that notion:
Thou art a lady;/ If only to go warm were gorgeous,/ why, nature needs not what thou gorgeous wear’st,/ Which scarcely keeps thee warm (2.4.269-72).
Edgar in Tom’s beggarly garb appears in the play as the opposite of the aristocratic fashion. The sole blanket that he reserves, "e“se we had been all ashamed” (3.4.65), seems to sustain him in the “contentious storm”. As a noble, Edgar in the form of Tom rebels and protests against the customary dress of his class: “let not the creaking of shoe nor the rustling of silks betray the poor heart to woman” (3.4.96-7). The same sense of rebellion is seen in Celia, in As You Like It. As as aristocratic woman, she appears in the play in “poor and mean attire” (1.3.109).
Class conflict is portrayed through the motif of disguise in another important way. Colie points to a change in aristocratic weight during the English renaissance. A general respect for the common individual came to be recognized as ideals of social egalitarianism grew on a larger scale (Colie, 189). The disguised Kent in King Lear “...protess[es] to be no less than [he] seem[s] (1.4.14). His service is of the kind “...which ordinary men are fit for...” (my stress) (1.4.35). Caius’ service to his king is valuable despite himself being an ordinary man and not a member of the court like banished Kent. The king himself testifies about Caius’ conduct: I thank thee fellow. Thou serv’st me, and I’ll love thee (1.4.90). The rustic beggar, Tom, is the companion and guide of an earl, Gloucester. A blind aristocrat puts his life in the hands of a Bedlam boy despite the protests of his old servant:
Old man: Alack, sir, he is mad
Glaucester: ‘tis times’ plague, when madmen/ Lead the blind (4.1.45-6).
It seems that aristocrats, such as the king and Gloucester, becomes dependent on commoners such as Caius and Tom.
Beyond historical interpretation, the disguised Edgar and Kent become symbols embedded in the drama. In a play that deals with flattery and with children who are false to their fathers, Caius and Tom stands for the truth. Relating to the motif of cloths in King Lear, Charney claims that “Renaissance symbolism makes nakedness the most important symbolic attribute of truth. Nuda Veritas, the naked goddess, is without pretence, disguise, or duplicity (Charney, in Cauile, 78). Such is Tom of Bedlam. Half naked (only covered with a blanket), he encounters Lear in the heath and utters words of truth:
...obey thy parents; keep thy word’s justice; swear nut; commit not with man’s sworn spouse; set not thy sweet heart on proud array (3.4.80-83).
Hills sees these words as the essence of truth in the play