How does "Enter Lear, fantastically dressed with wild flowers" show Lear's mental state?

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writeacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

At the beginning of this play, Lear was the very powerful King of England and had clearly been a successful ruler. He had plenty of land under his control, enough to be able to divide it among his daughters and their husbands, and still consider it substantial. Successful kings usually are not in a questionable mental state! We soon see Lear change in the course of this play, though. I've always wondered what would change such a successful king into the insane man he is by Act IV.

Be sure you're paying attention to the specific words and their literal meanings. The word fantastically is directly related to fantasy. There's also the phrase wild flowers to indicate that he has been slipping. If you haven't seen this character on stage or in a film, you can go to a good search engine, search for fantastically dressed king lear, and click on Images.

Would a successful and powerful ruler dress like this? Or is his appearance supposed to let us know how far into insanity he has slipped at this point? If you need further help understanding just how mad he has become, be sure to check out the scene or this topic in the links below.