The fool has a very important role in King Lear. The role of the fool is to entertain the King and his royal subjects, and to make them laugh. King Lear and the fool have a good relationship. The fool can tell him jokes and have a good time, but only the fool can poke fun at the King. Anyone else would get their head cut off.
The fool can also be compared to a Greek chorus. The fool acts as a commentator or a third party who states the obvious truth about the King that no one else dares say. The fool increases the sense of tragedy by restating the King’s conflict. For example, in Act I Scene IV he says “Why this fellow (indicating the King) has alienated his two daughters and done the third one a blessing without intending to”. Also, in Act I Scene IV he says, “That lord that counseled thee to give away the land come plea him here by me” calling King Lear a fool.
In King Lear the fool functions as a joker or jester. He lets the reader know what is going on in a more casual way. On stage, the fool would look pretty goofy. He would be wearing old clothes that are very colorful. I think he would look like a clown. I think the movie character that the fool best relates to would be The Mask’ played by Jim Carrey. I say this because Jim Carrey himself is goofy, and in The Mask he pokes fun at people.
In conclusion, my opinion of the fool is that he has no life. His only purpose is to make the King happy. If he succeeds he feels good about himself. But if he fails, that is the worst thing he could feel and he is sad and angry at himself.
Shakespeare for Dummies by John Doyle and Ray Lischner; IDG Books Worldwide, Inc. 1999. Pages 87-89, 276-277.
Shakespeare Made Easy by Alan Durband, Hutchinson and Co., Ltd. 1986. Pages 67, 69.