List and discuss Edgar's reasons fo playing the part of Poor Tom. (II, iii)   Compare the madness of Lear to the madness of Poor Tom. (III, iv)Please help me with these questions. I have read play...

List and discuss Edgar's reasons fo playing the part of Poor Tom. (II, iii)

 

Compare the madness of Lear to the madness of Poor Tom. (III, iv)

Please help me with these questions. I have read play and commentaries, but cannot really answer these two questions. If you can help, I'd really appreciate it.

Expert Answers
shakespeareguru eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Lear's madness stems from his being forced out of every comfort and sense of royal convenience that he has known for his long, privileged life as King.

Edgar isn't mad at all, but has taken refuge in the disguise "Poor Tom" out on the heath as an escape from his father's wrath (So, any madness that Poor Tom shows is simply Edgar pretending to be Poor Tom).  In actuality, Edgar's father isn't angry with him (nor does he wish him dead), but Edgar devious half-brother, Edmund, has convinced him of this in an attempt to supplant Edgard as Gloucester's heir.

There are some ways that you could see the actions of Lear and Edgar as similar:

  • They both take to the heath to live out in wild nature to avoid the intrigue and greed of their families.
  • They both find a sort of redemption on the heath:  Lear in the freedom to behave however he wishes without censure; Edgar in the opportunity to help his blind father, who has had his eyes gouged out by Lear's power-hungry offspring.
  • Both return to their "normal" states and ranks at the end of the play.

Of course, one of the largest differences between Lear and Edgar in what they undergo, is that Lear is at the end of his life, and Edgar is at the prime of his.

The play ends with Lear's death.  Presumably he is heartbroken over the loss of his daughter Cordelia.  But it could also be that the strain of the events  that caused him to wander homeless about the heath has caused his demise.  Edgar, being younger and more resilient, is actually presented at the end of the play as stronger and wiser than he was when it began.