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The Fool in Quarto and Folio "King Lear"


Source: English Literary Renaissance, Vol. 34, No. 3, STUDIES IN SHAKESPEARE (AUTUMN
2004), pp. 306-338
Published by: The University of Chicago Press
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The Fool in Quarto and Folio K

I have tried with some difficulty to arrive at something c

but I now believe that in the case of plays there is no su
—Tom Stoppard1

As a the
1980s, of Renaissance
notably textualofscholars
in The Division arguedthe
the Kingdoms, persuasively
Quarto and in
Folio versions of King Lear are distinct texts often producing different
literary and theatrical effects. Unfortunately, interest in such variation
was inadvertently quelled by the vast majority of "revisionist" critics
who argued that the Folio text was simply an improved version of the
earlier Quarto text. As a result, much of their work focused on zeal
ously "proving" that the Folio renderings of characters were superior to
their supposedly deficient counterparts in the Quarto. Ultimately, a
sensible majority of critics were persuaded by arguments that the two
texts were substantially different but nonetheless pointed out the flawed,
subjective, and ultimately unprovable logic of authorial perfection as
the sole motivation for substantive textual variants.
As one who ostensibly rejected the logic of authorial perfection,
R. A. Foakes had the last word on the differences between the Quarto
(published 1608) and Folio Fools in King Lear when he appeared to
disagree with John Kerrigan's conclusion that the Folio version of the
character was enhanced by the author. Like the editors of The Division of
the Kingdoms, Kerrigan had employed a theory of revision that assumed
"to revise" simply meant "to perfect," so that he deemed the Quarto a
rough draft at best, a failed attempt to produce the supposedly more

ι. Quoted in Philip Gaskell, "Example 12: Stoppard, Travesties, 1974," in From Writer to
Reader: Studies in Editorial Method (Oxford, 1978), pp. 246-47. Gaskell's essay is still one of the
most thought-provoking analyses of revision for performance and the problems it presents for
editorial practice.

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Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Maiden, MA 02148, USA.

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Robert Β. Hornback 307

refined Folio.2 Drawing upon a general impression tha

seems witty, bitter, and wise in the conflated composite
the revisionist critics' trap as he presupposed that the
exhibit these qualities to a greater degree than did t
Fool. The Folio Fool, he claimed, was in all ways "dram
to his Q equivalent," simply "better in F than Q." W
wardly disputed such logic, arguing that "Whether [re
'coherent pattern' making the Folio Fool superior dr
Quarto Fool is less clear" than Kerrigan proposed, in th
actually disagree with Kerrigan's essential interpre
minimized the differences between the two texts. In fac
to the same revisionist logic of authorial perfection
when he concluded that the Folio Fool is "more consiste
the Folio, he argued, "enhances the acerbic quality" of
duces "a sharp mature professional, deliberately needlin
added). Such a conclusion was thus not substantively
Kerrigan's assertion that the F Fool is a professional, "c
and worldly jester, deliberately needling Lear" (empha
Foakes's word choice echoes Kerrigan's conclusion. In t
minimal qualifications aside, revisionist textual critics
plicit consensus that the F Fool is "enhanced," perfected
and, in short, more of a good thing, rather than simply
Although scholars such as Richard Knowles and Peter
the myth of the "authorially" perfected Folio gener

2. See Margreta de Grazia and Peter Stallybrass, "The Materiality of th

Shakespeare Quarterly 44 (1993), 279: "|Tlhe recognition of multiple tex
a theory of revision that ends up unifying and regulating," since all vari
name of a revising Shakespeare." Assuming that, because the Quarto
revised, Shakespeare must have been "dissatisfied with it," Roger Warren
that all "the folio cuts, additions, and rewordings represent Shakespeare
so that one goal of revisionist textual scholars becomes "guessing at the s
tion." Gary Taylor, "Monopolies, Show Trials, Disaster, and Invasion
ship," in The Division of the Kingdoms: Shakespeare's Two Versions of King L
Michael Warren (Oxford, 1983), p. 101; Roger Warren, "The Folio
Trial: Motives and Consequences," in The Division of the Kingdoms, p. 45
3. John Kerrigan, "Revision, Adaptation, and the Fool in King Lear,"
Kingdoms, p. 230; R. A. Foakes, "Textual Revision and the Fool in
20 (1985), 37; see also Foakes, King Lear, The Arden Shakspeare editio
1997)· pp- 134,137
4. Richard Knowles, "Revision Awry in Folio Lear 3.1," Shakespeare
32-46; P. W. K. Stone, The Textual History of King Lear (London, 1980). Kno
that "some or all of the cutting and patching evident in F may not be Sh

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3o8 English Literary Renaissance
Quarto Fool could be analyzed on its own terms, Jonathan Goldber
dismissed all so-called "character criticism" in a 1986 essay entitle
"Textual Properties," reprinted and somewhat qualified in Shakespeare's
Hand (2003). Combining post-structuralist theory with research demon
strating the instability of the Shakespearean text due to performance cuts
sophisticators, and compositors, Goldberg claimed that since "the stabilit
of the word is in question, so, too, is the stability of character." Then, 11
an extension of such all-or-nothing logic, he argued, character "cannot b
assimilated to an authorial intentionality." Even as he once claimed that
his own "critical position [is] more responsive to the radical historicity o
the texts," Goldberg's brand of "rigorous historicism" completely ignore
the relevance of one type of historicism—theater history. Such an a
proach, then, is inherently based on a dismissal of drama as theater. Afte
all, for those who love drama, character has always been a valid concern. B
contrast, Goldberg's decontextualizing, "denaturalizing" approach views
play-texts and characters alike as always already circumscribed by the pag
never the theater. Shakespearean drama itself, like its author, is lifeless,
dead thing to be dissected by Derridean "free play," but never a play
Thus, while there can be "no text," paradoxically, there is merely text, s
that the only valid historical approach is "a return to the letter," affixed to
paper either by the printing press, or, elsewhere in his work, by hand, bu
in any case never lively characters 011 page or stage.1 Regrettably, at leas
in the case of Lear's Fool, this typo-centric dismissal of any consideration
of character undermined a valid form of literary, theatrical, and editoria
analysis. For those concerned about historical contexts, it would be prefe
able to attend to character in Renaissance terms when possible, and con
sider it, and dramatic revisions, within the context of theater culture/'

(p. 46): "Except for cutting, which could be theatrical rather than authorial, the major substantive
changes in F are usually additions of a line or more to existing Q speeches, . . . and hundreds o
small verbal changes . . . explainable as editorial, scribal, or compositorial error, correction, or
sophistication" (p. 32). Knowles too falls prey to the logic of attempted perfecting when he argu
that Folio variants are "local improvements, not significant revisions" (p. 4$, emphasis mine).
5. Jonathan Goldberg, "Textual Properties," Shakespeare Quarterly 37.2 (1986), 215, 214, 216. See
also his Writing Matter: From the Hands of the English Renaissance (Stanford, 1990). In marked contrast
to Goldberg's ahistoric dismissal of theatrical concerns, David Wiles has argued: "To analyze an
Elizabethan play as the product of a single mind is to impose a selective modern point of view
Shakespeare's Clown: Actor and Text in the Elizabethan Playhouse (Cambridge, Eng., 1987), p. 42.
6. While the caveat that there was no sense of stable character in the period—based primarily
on inconsistent speech headings in Renaissance texts—has some merit, the differences between
natural and artificial fools were widely recognized at the time. For discussions of instability o
character in dramatic texts, see especially Random Cloud, " 'The very names of the Persons

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Robert Β. Homback 309

One important context regularly overlooked by those

Lear s Fool and Fool variants is the historical distinction between so-called
"natural" and "artificial" fool types in Renaissance England, a distinction,
according to Enid Welsford, "so often made in Elizabethan times."7 It may
be useful to offer briefly some criteria for distinguishing between these
two types, especially since artificial fools stood essentially in opposition
to the thing itself, the "very fool" or "natural," whose folly was real in
that it came "by nature," not by pretended artifice or art. While the nat
ural fool was an "innocent" who was generally laughed at for mental
deficiencies, the artificial fool distinguished himself and his fooling with
his clever, bitter wit, as he provoked laughter at others. Whereas the
natural fool was dependent, and consequently often depicted as sweet
and pathetic even when unintentionally insulting, the artificial fool was
characterized by his consistent and intentional bitterness. Similarly, while
the natural was demonstrably irrational and so was often painstakingly
characterized by disjointed logic, the artificial fool was just as clearly dis
tinguished as rational by his ordered, and occasionally even artfully
formal, or syllogistic, logic. And while the natural was most foolish in
that he lacked self-knowledge, the artificial fool was, like Feste in Twelfth
Night, "wise enough to play the fool" (3.1.6ο)8 and philosophical in that
he harped upon the humanistic, Socratically-inspired themes of nosce te
ipsum ("know thyself") and of the universality of folly. Finally, whereas
the natural was typically an unconsciously anarchic or subversive deviant
who innocently flouted customary rules and turned the world upside
down, the "fool by art" regularly self-consciously flouted transgression
itself, exposing the socially deviant as natural fools. Therefore, while the
natural fool's humor was often carnivalesque, the artificial fool's comedy
was instead typically more "normative" in character in that it mocked
deviations from such norms. '

Editing and the Invention of Dramatick Character," in Staging the Renaissance: Reinterpretations of
Elizabethan and Jacobean Drama, ed. David Scott Kastan and Peter Stallybrass (London, 1991),
pp. 88-96; de Grazia and Stallybrass, pp. 255-83; and Random Cloud, "Information on Informa
tion," TEXT 5 (1991), 241-81.
7. Welsford, The Fool: His Social and Literary History (London, 1935), p. 119.
8. Unless otherwise specified, quotations from Shakespeare's plays refer to The Riverside
Shakespeare, ed. G. Blakenrore Evans, et al. (Boston, 1997).
9. On natural fools, see esp. Welsford; John Doran, The History of Court Fools (London, 1858);
Leslie Hotson, Shakespeare's Motley (New York. 1952); Walter Kaiser, Praisers of Folly: Erasmus,

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3io English Literary Renaissance
The substitution of artificial fools such as Touchstone, Feste, Lavatch
Thersites, Carlo BufFone, and Passarello for the carnivalesque clow
that had dominated the 1580s and 1590s indicates that playwrights we
self-consciously participating in a change of fashion in the years follo
ing 1599. For more than a decade thereafter the artificial fool became t
most prominent comic role. The Shakespearean actor famed for playin
these artificial fools, Robert Armin, the self-proclaimed "Clonnico del
Mundo" ("Clown of the Globe") after c. 1599 and author of Fool Upo
Fool or Sixe Sortes of Sottes (1605), was self-conscious about the distincti
between fool types as he wrote, for instance, in Λ Nest of Ninnies (1608
that "Fools artificial with their wits lay wait / To make themselves Foo
liking the disguise / To feed their own minds and the gazer's eyes.""1
Aware of his popular role as scourge of folly, Armin explained on the
title-page to his satirical Quips Upon Question (1600) that "[I]t is my pr
fession, / To jest at ajester [i.e., a fool], in his transgression." To sum up
then, the self-conscious artificial fool type played by Armin had foils "
jest at" to set himself apart as he distinguished himself from his peers
foolishness through his demonstrably bitter, often satiric wit, rationa
logic and idiom, wise self-knowledge, and, perhaps above all, jests at th
transgressions of those whom he proved to be naturals.
Far from being mere arcane trivia, the historical distinction between
fool types and comic functions so familiar in Shakespeare's day can be
applied not only to an analysis of the textual variants of the Fool in Q an
F Lear, but also to scholarly and dramatic interpretations of the Fool's pa
more generally. Since his return to the stage in 1838, after his editori
excision by Nahum Tate in 1681, the Fool in King Lear has been mo
than an enigma." Kerrigan rightly observes that critical interpretations

Rabelais, Shakespeare (Cambridge, Mass., 1963); John Southworth, "The Innocents," Fools a
Jesters at the English Court (Stroud, Gloucestershire, 1998), pp. 48-60. On artificial fools, see
Charles S. Felver, Robert Armin, Shakespeare's Fool: A Biographical Essay, Kent State Universit
Bulletin (Kent, 1961); Thomas Lodge, Wits Miserie and the World's Madnesse (1596), p. 84; a
Theodore Leinwand's "Conservative Fools in James's Court and Shakespeare's Plays," Shak
speare Studies 19 (1991), 219—34. None of the above actually establishes criteria tor differentiating
between fool types, few even address both types, and none observes the artificial fool's essentially
normative comic function.

10. A Nest of Ninnies and Other English Jestbooks of the Seventeenth Century, ed. P. M. Zall
(Lincoln, Neb., 1970), p. 26.
11. In 1681 Nahum Tate's infamous adaptation of Lear, which he titled The History of King
Lear, appeared with a number of significant changes, among them the addition of a love plot
between Cordelia and Edgar and a happy ending, as well as the expunging of the Fool. The first
production to restore the Fool was that of Macready's in 1838.

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Robert Β. Hornback 311

the character "have swung wildly between the extreme

Enrpson's blathering natural and Orwell's canny rati
that is, between natural and artificial fool. Such wild "
times less evident in production. Although the Fool, as
the standard conflated editions of the play, always has
actors and scholars have often tended to interpret him
pathetic clown. The pathos of a sweet, natural Fool con
from the Folio text, however, while the Fool in the Qu
wiser, and more bitter artificial fool.
At the same time the textual variants in both texts h
produced markedly different theatrical effects which
radically different from what critics have expected to find
the Q and F Fools are extraordinary, surprisingly diff
tions, it is first necessary to point out that revision was
in the early modern theater as most revisionist critics
were revised quite often. In his financial records Henslo
referred to revision as providing "new adicyones" or
"altrynge" was not undertaken because plays were deem
(since only initially successful plays were frequently r
the expense of revising), but rather, as Eric Rasmussen
pace with current theatrical trends."13 Moreover, R
finds that the dynamics of company repertory often o
to "the principle of duplication by way of sequels, seria
to capitalize on theatrical successes.14 The Quarto Fool
in 1608 make most sense if situated within the contex
theatrical trend of "spin-offs" favoring the artifici
Armin, while the subsequent Folio Fool is a more pi
natural Fool in keeping with another trend, the inc
pathos already evident in Shakespeare's latest plays
of Beaumont and Fletcher. The Lear Quarto and Folio
the distinguishing characteristics of the two Renaissanc
in so doing, they also reflect two distinct theatrical tren

12. When discussing the Quarto's effects in performance, I refer to D

speare on Stage: The King Lear Quarto in Rehearsal and Performance," Sha
(Autumn 1996), 374-82. For reasons I have already hinted at above, F
Taylor arrive at exactly the opposite conclusion.
13. For an insightful discussion of revision in terms of Renaissance th
Rasmussen, "The Revision of Scripts," A New History of Early English D
and David Scott Kastan (New York, 1997), pp. 441-60, esp. pp. 448-49
14. Roslyn L. Knutson, "The Repertory," A New History of Early Engl

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312 English Literary Renaissance
In addition, given evidence of the fad involving Armin's brand of
artificial fools, determining when Armin (d. 1615) retired, taking his last
exit from Shakespeare's "great stage of fools," may help us begin to date
the Folio revision. It seems likely that Armin was still playing his popular
fool roles as late as 1610, two years after the publication of the Quarto,
since in that year John Davies' Scourge of Folly commends "honest
gamesome Robin Armin" who "playest both" a "foole and [a] knave,"
urging him to continue to "do as thou dost, wisely play the foole."'3 In
1613, however, Shakespeare and Fletcher's Henry VIII included a some
what curious prologue justifying the absence of the legendary fool Will
Somers from the play:

I come no more to make you laugh; things now

That bear a weighty and a serious brow,
Sad, high, and working, full of state and woe:
Such noble scenes as draw the eye to flow,
We now present. . . .
Only they
That come ... to see a fellow
In a long motley coat guarded with yellow,
Will be deceiv'd. For, gentle hearers, know,
To rank our chosen truth with such a show
As fool . . .
Will leave us never an understanding friend. (11. 1—5; 13-22)"'

The absence of such a well-known, well-liked character as ITenry VIII's

fool, one the "understanders" or groundlings in the audience clearly
expected to see, justified as it is on the basis of a neoclassical decorum
that is atypical for Shakespeare, is generally taken (rightly) not only as an
indication of the influence of Fletcher's aesthetics but as a sign that
Armin had retired by June of 1613, recently enough that such commentary
was still deemed necessary. As John Southworth observes, "(BJetter

15· John Davies, The Complete Works of John Davies of Hereford, ed. Alexander B. Grossart
(Edinburgh, 1878), II, 60-61.
16. The artificial fool often appropriated the "fool's coat" to mark his profession and give him
license. As Wiles notes, "Anyone could be an 'artificial' fool by dressing up in the motley uniform
of the 'natural."' Wiles, p. 150. Thus, when an observer supposedly complained to John
Heywood thatjohn Pace, a master of arts, educated at Eton and elected scholar of King's College,
Cambridge, in 1539, "had disgraced himselfe with wearing a fooles coate," Heywood retorted,
"It is lesse hurtfull to the commonweale, when wisemen goe in fooles coates, than, when fooles
goe in wise mens gownes." William Camden, Remaines of A Greater Worke, Concerning Britain
(1605), p. 234.

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Robert Β. Hornback 313

perhaps no Will [Somers] at all than a Will played by a

. . . the outstanding player of fools in his time," Armin
fool role could not so easily be filled in King Henry VIII
probable time of revision for the Lear Folio shortly aft
ment some time in 1613. If the Fool's part in Lear was r
actor following Armin's retirement, we must admit the
that Shakespeare (also apparently retired by the end of
in 1616) did not undertake the revision extant in F at al
Such rapid, actor-specific revision and initial creation
have been characteristic of the Renaissance theater gen
had a precedent in 1598-1399, for instance, when Sh
suddenly shifted from writing the rustic natural "ass" Dogb
for Will Kemp,17 to creating the witty fool Touchstone
Armin, while Jonson wrote the part of the bitter-wit
for Armin in Everyman Out of His Humor in the sam
Armin wrote the parts of the artificial fool Tutch and
natural fool Blue John for himself in 1599 in Two Maid
At the same time, as Southworth observes, because of
departure from the company before Armin's arrival, F
appear as promised in Henry F because Kemp was n
to play him (p. 132). Nevertheless, while scholarly c
allowed that Shakespeare and other professional play
created characters with particular actors in mind, critic
ant to explore the possibility that revisions and "new a
carried out in a similar fashion, as when Marston added
Passarello for Armin to his revision of The Malcontent
Men acquired the play from a boys' company in 1604.1
I do not accept the popular argument that Armin mu
Edgar rather than the Fool, because the part of Edgar

ιη. In the Quarto of Much Ado (ϊόοο), Kemp's name appears in the stag
speech heading for Dogberry in 4.2, partly perhaps to prevent confus
headings for Constable and Conrade (the latter listed as "Con." in the scen
Shakespeare's Plays in Quarto: A Facsimile Edition of Copies Primarily from t
Library, ed. MichaelJ. B. Allen and Kenneth Muir (Berkeley, 1981), p
headings for Kemp are generally taken as evidence that the part was at l
before he left Shakespeare's company sometime in the year 1598-1599.
18. Further evidence of a fad for Armin's type of fool is suggested by
last Admiral's comedy, All Fools but the Fool (c. 1599, lost), which stron
competition with Armin's popularity.
19. For a discussion of this revision for Armin, see Felver, pp. 65-66.

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314 English Literary Renaissance
better part, "a more demanding role in which, for the greater part of th
play, he is required to disguise himself as a madman," and Armin was a
skilled mimic; and Armin was too old (likely in his forties) by 1603 to
have been referred to as "boy" as the Fool is several times.2" Both arguments
are mistaken. By the logic of the first, Armin should also have played th
lead roles in Hamlet and The Malcontent, since, like the part of Edgar, bot
of these roles require an ability to play a mad natural, yet we know that
Burbage played both roles successfully. More importantly, the modern
assumption that Edgar is a better part ignores the popularity of Armin's
fools at the time, not to mention what a rewarding role the Fool is.
The second claim relies exclusively on the first definition of the word
"boy" in The Oxford English Dictionary, "a male child below the age of
puberty," but ignores three common alternative meanings in early modern
English, all of which could apply to the Fool: "applied playfully, affec
tionately, or slightingly to a young man, or one treated as such" (OED
2); "a servant, slave" (OED 3); and "a term of contempt" synonymou
with "knave, varlet, rogue, wretch, caitiff" (OED 4; after all, the Fool i
called elsewhere "more knave than fool" and Davies claimed that Armin

played both fool and knave). Lear's relationship with the Fool seems to
suit all of the ancillary meanings of "boy" at least as well as the first
possible meaning. Furthermore, since the Fool seems to resent Lear's use
of the term "boy," as is evident when he impudently calls Lear "my boy"
himself (Q 1.4.127; F 1.4.129), the latter meanings are perhaps most
likely. In such a context, even Lear's reference to the Fool as a "pretty
knave" (Q 1.4.89; F 1.4.91) may suggest that Lear is using such words
ironically, "playfully, affectionately, or slightingly." We cannot assume
as critics have that, particularly to an old man m his eighties, a man in his
forties could not appear attractive or even "pretty."
All in all, it seems most likely that when King Lear was first performed,
probably in 1605, a year after his enormous popularity had necessitated
the addition of the artificial fool's part in The Malcontent as well as a year
in which he was capitalizing on his popularity with the pamphlet Fool
Upon Fool, that is, at the very height of his popularity, Armin would have

20. Southworth, p. 134. My quotations from Q and/or F Lear texts refer to King Lear: Λ
Parallel Text Edition, ed. Rene Weis (London, 1993). For reference, in cases of significant variants
between texts, I have generally tried to include as well the through line number (TLN) from
The First Folio of Shakespeare, ed. Charlton Hinman (London and New York, 1968). Where Weis's
parallel text edition has erased notable variants in Q, I have included page signatures (line num
bers unavailable) from Allen and Muir.

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Robert Β. Hornback 315

played the typical role for which he was famous.21 Su

more likely since the Fool in either text of King Lear,
in Troilus and Cressida (c. 1602), is one of the most ch
in Shakespeare's repertoire. While the part of the Fool
tailor-made for Armin's artificial fools, the Folio revis


Far from making the Fool more acerbic, the Folio revisions tend to make
the Fool there a sweetly pathetic figure. To Act 3.4, for instance, one of
the storm scenes, the F text adds lines in which Lear expresses concern
for the Fool: "Lear. In boy, go first. You houseless poverty. / Nay, get
thee in. I'll pray and then I'll sleep" (F only, 3.4.26-27; TLN 1807-08).
This added expression of concern for the Fool's condition in F, com
bined with Lear's prior concern for the Fool's exposure to the cold in
both texts ("How dost my boy? Art cold? . . . Poor fool and knave, I
have one part in my heart / That's sorry yet for thee" [Q 3.2.68-73;
F 3.2.68—73]), creates a distinct impression that the Fool's health is
waning in F. The Folio's additional lines also make the Fool there seem
sweet and loyal since he possibly resists going in out of the cold ahead
of Lear. Alternatively, the Folio lines may suggest that its natural Fool
does not always have the proverbial "sense to come in out of the rain"
and depends on Lear for care, as was typical of the natural fool.
The Folio variant that makes the Fool most typically a pitiable natural
is the poignant, enigmatic statement, "And I'll go to bed at noon" (F
only, 3.6.41; TLN 2043), as the Fool's last line. This Folio-only line is
the Fool's response to the mad Lear's inversionary claim, "we'll go to
supper i' the morning" (Q 3.6.78; F 3.6.40). Not only does the Fool
acquiesce to Lear's inversion of custom, but he also identifies pathetically
with a flower that shuts itself away after the passing of the noon-day sun.
The "Go to bedde at noone" was a flower "which shutteth it selfe at
twelve of the clocke and sheweth not his face open vntill the next daies
sunne do make it flower anew, whereupon it was called Go to bed at
noone."22 The allusion suggests the Folio Fool's resignation: since the

21. After mastering the Armin-type in additions to The Malcontent, Marston went on to write
the boy company play The Fawn (1604-1606), featuring the satirical fool Dondolo, apparently to
compete with Armin's continuing popularity. It is also clear that Thomas Wilkins wrote the part
of the witty fool Robin ( The Miseries of Enforced Marriage, 1606) for Armin shortly after King Lear.
22. John Gerard, The Herball (1597), pp. 594~95

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31 <5 English Literary Renaissance
failing King will not return to glory, the Fool will also "shew . . . not his
face" again. While a bitter rendering of the line is certainly possible
through delivery in modern performance, for those familiar with the
allusion, as a Jacobean audience would have been, the line cannot be so
easily divorced from its pathetic undertones.
The presupposition that the F Fool must be an "enhanced" version of
the supposedly less bitter Q Fool has led revisionist textual scholars to
read the Folio-only line as a "mocking exit line" or as an expression of
the "Fool's determination to leave King Lear with its course half run. . . .
So he resolves to call it a day at 'noone,' to abandon the action at its
midpoint, to absent himself from half the story."23 But this is not how the
line has usually been interpreted in performance. When the Fool was
first restored to the play in 1838 following his excision by Nahum Tate,
Priscilla Florton, playing the Fool as a sweet young, boyish natural,
found pathos in the lines: "When all his attempts have failed, either to
soothe or outjest [Lear's] injuries, he sings, in the shivering cold, about
the necessity of'going to bed at noon.' Fie leaves the stage to die 111 his
youth, and we hear of him no more till we hear the sublime touch of
pathos over the dead body of the hanged Cordelia."24 Likewise, Antony
Sher interpreted the line as his Fool's death knell, a line "which would
make perfect sense coming from a mortally wounded man." Olivier's
television production found the line similarly pathetic: "Here [in 3.6]
pathos is the dominant note. Lear's 'We'll go to supper i' th' morning' is
immediately followed by a close up of the stricken Fool for his 'And I'll
go to bed at noon.' The bustle of Gloucester's urgent return still permits
the camera to linger over the sleeping Lear and his tender removal by
Kent and Edgar to the litter. But the end of the scene is given to the
Fool. . . . We first see him from the rear sitting alone on the bale of hay
as the others leave. After the cut to Edgar [exiting], the angle is reversed
for the camera's zooming return to the abandoned and shivering
figure. That last shot is of the Fool's face, mouth twitching and eyes shut
against the pain of approaching death. "2:> While assumptions of authorial

23- Kerrigan, p. 229.

24. John Forster reviewing W. C. Macready's King Lear at the Theatre Royal, Covent
Garden, London, from The Examiner, 14 February, 1838, reprinted in Shakespeare in the Theatre:
An Anthology of Criticism, ed. Stanley Wells (New York, 1997, 2000), p. 76.
25. Anthony Sher, "The Fool in King Lear," Players of Shakespeare II: Further Essays in Shake
spearean Performances by Players with the Royal Shakespeare Company, ed. Russell Jackson and Robert
Smallwood (New York, 1988), p. 163; James P. Lusardi and June Schlueter, Reading Shakespeare
in Performance: King Lear (Rutherford, 1991), pp. 103-04.

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Robert Β. Hornback 317

perfection have encouraged textual critics to view the

line as a bitter one, performances have most often fou
instead as they have shown him dying or being abando
The Quarto text, by contrast, makes the Fool's death
difficult to justify, since in Q the scene concludes wit
ing the Fool, "Come, help to bear thy master; / Tho
behind" (Q 3.6.93-94), which F cuts, followed by E
which F also cuts ("When we our betters see bearing ou
lurk!" [Q 3.6.95-108]). Kent's command here may s
Quarto Fool is not only not dying, but may actually be
interest, trying to stay behind to detach himself from
just as he may have been doing previously in 1.4 when
him to follow Lear: "You, more knave than fool, aft
(Q i.4.301; F 1.4.84). This detachment would be with
an artificial fool capable of independence and self-suff
very least, as Empson noted, Kent's command in Q
gest that Kent took his faithfulness for granted."26
in Q, moreover, makes an interpretation suggesting th
abandonment awkward to manage, in terms of stage b
it seems to call for the Fool's exit so that Edgar can be
As a result, performances such as Linda Scott Kerr's
have had to follow the Folio's cuts of Kent's line and o
in order to achieve a pathetic interpretation: "Close
Folio text, the production showed the Fool abandoned
mouthing inaudible nonsense as Kent and Gloucest
sleeping Lear away."27 Likewise, in Granville-Barker's
Badel, playing the Fool to John Gielgud's Lear, "was
himself alone on the stage, the others all gone; and like
to look about for the scent, and cry 'Nuncle Lear, Nun
emptiness."28 While Kent's command and Edgar's so
such lonely, pathetic interpolations difficult to justify,
abandonment of the Fool is certainly effective dram
because its emphatically shivering Fool seems either to
an utterly, pathetically dependent natural unable to car

26. William Empson, "The Fool in Lear," The Structure of Complex W

1951)· p-132·
27. The Tragedy of King Lear, ed. Jay L. Halio (Cambridge, Eng., 1992), p. 53.
28. Marvin Rosenberg, The Masks of King Lear (Berkeley, 1972), p. 238.

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318 English Literary Renaissance
In addition, because the Folio text cuts the mock trial scene in 3.6, the
Folio's natural Fool offers no resistance to Lear's lapse into madness. In
marked contrast, in Q, as was typical of Armin's artificial fools, the Fool
bitterly calls attention to the transgressive irrationality of Lear's raving
about the imaginary defendant, Goneril, when he refuses to see what
Lear sees:

Lear. Arraign her first. 'Tis Goneril: I here take my oath before this
honourable assembly she kicked the poor King her father.
Fool. Come hither, mistress. Is your name Goneril?
Lear. She cannot deny it.
Fool. Cry you mercy, I took you for a joint-stool. (Q 3.6.43-48)

The final line of this Quarto-only exchange, the Fool's last line in the
Quarto text, shows him refusing to humor the mad Lear. Thus, the
Fool's destruction of Lear's illusion that the stool is not empty and that
Goneril is actually there prompts Lear's angry outburst, as if the Fool had
let her escape: "Stop her there. / Arms, arms, sword, fire, corruption in
the place! / False justicer, why hast thou let her 'scape?' " (Q 3.6.50-52).
David Richman's rare account of the Quarto in performance is instruc
tive here: "The audience invariably laughed when the Fool remarked ot
Goneril, 'took you for a joint-stool.' But in the best tradition of tragic
farce, it was a pained laugh. ... In our production, the mock trial
achieved stunning effects. It was indeed an epicenter" (p. 382). There
fore, contrary to standard revisionist claims that in the trial scene the
Quarto Fool "overlaps with Edgar and Lear" in "[trying] harder to please
the King" and that the mock trial generally "flattens out the distinction
between the Fool and Poor Tom,"29 in Q, Tom and Lear serve as foils
to the Fool, since the Quarto Fool instead separates himself from both,
distinguishing himself as an artificial fool by insisting bitterly on reality
and ultimately opposing rather than merely joining in the madness. In
this scene, as throughout the Quarto, that is, the Quarto Fool is insist
ently and bitterly sane: an emphatically artificial fool.
Contrary to F's additional expression of concern for the shivering Fool
in 3.4, F's added "go to bed at noon" in 3.6, and the omission of the
bitter, "tragic farce" trial scene in F, the Quarto's Fool is recognizably an
artificial fool when he bitterly pursues an attack on Lear's folly 111 several
lines which the Folio text omits entirely: in the Quarto text the Fool
answers his riddle, "Dost know the difference, my boy, between a bitter

29. Kerrigan, pp. 230, 226; Foakes, p. 135.

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Robert Β. Homback 319

fool and a sweet one?" (Q 1.4.127-28; F 1.4.129-3

Lear's "No, lad, teach me" (Q 1.4.129; F 1.4.131),
begins a famous exchange with Lear that appears o

Fool. That Lord that counselled thee

To give away thy land,
Come, place him here by me;
Do thou for him stand.
The sweet and bitter fool
Will presently appear,
The one in motley here,
The other found out there.
Lear. Dost thou call me fool, boy?
Fool. All thy other titles thou hast given away; that thou wast born with.
Kent. This is not altogether fool, my lord.
Fool. No, faith, lords and great men will not let me. If I had a monopoly
out, they would have part on't; and ladies too: they will not let me
have all the fool to myself; they'll be snatching. (Q 1.4.130-45)

Prior to Kent's interjection, like Armin's fools Feste, Lavatch, and

Thersites, the Fool distinguishes himself as an artificial fool, a profes
sional court jester in motley, as opposed to Lear, who "wast bom" a natural
fool. In Q, then, we see the typical pairing of Armin's artificial fool with
a foil (e.g., Touchstone with Corin and Will, Feste with Sir Andrew or
Malvolio, Lavatch with Parolles, Thersites with Ajax, Carlo Buffone with
Sogliardo, Passarello with Bilosio, etc.) whose folly becomes increasingly
obvious.3" As an artificial fool appearing with a foolish foil, the Quarto
Fool boldly calls Lear a fool to his face for giving away his lands and titles,
bitterly reducing Lear to a "sweet," abject natural fool.31 Kent's inteijection,
"This is not altogether fool, my Lord," which feebly attempts to soften

30. The artificial fool quite insistently distinguishes himself from his essentially or naturally
foolish counterpart by artfully proving those around him naturals. Thus, Jonson's play Every Man
Out of His Humour (i 599) includes a pairing of artificial and natural fool as the artificial fool Carlo
Buffone (played by Armin) is paired with Sogliardo, an "essential clown." As Wiles observes,
"Carlo's task in the play is to show up Sogliardo as being essentially a clown" (p. 147). Similarly,
in All's Well That Ends Well, the fool Lavatch turns out to be correct in calling his foil, Parolles,
a fool, since the foolish Parolles ultimately realizes that he can "Being fool'd, by fool'ry thrive!"
(4.3.338) and resolves himself to be a natural. Consistently, the artificial fool has a natural as a foil
to set him off.

31. Which fool is which is not altogether clear, a matter that depends on when the Fool
gestures to himself and when to Lear in performance; but given the bitterness of the jibe and the
fact that Armin specialized in bitter fools, this interpretation seems most plausible.

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320 English Literary Renaissance
the blow of the Fool's bitter truth-telling while simultaneously acknowledg
ing the wisdom ol a pointed jibe, further signals the truth of the artificial
Fool's observation. In addition to the Quarto's bitter insult, it is signific
ant that only in the Quarto do we see an artificial fool assuming the role
of teacher to a simple-witted natural fool; only in Q do we see the Fool
taking Lear's invitation ("No, lad, teach me") to teach him "the differ
ence . . . between a bitter fool and a sweet one." The Q-only passage
thus shows an artificial fool making logical, ordered substitutions ("do
thou for him stand"), rationally explaining and clarifying his logic, and
pressing home the standard point of the wise, philosophical artificial
fool: "Know thyself; know thy folly." The Fool in the Quarto further
explains that Lear has foolishly "given away" all "[his] other titles," and
is now left only with the title of fool "that thou wast born with." This is
a tragic lesson that Lear, who "hath ever but slenderly known himself"
(Q 1.1.280-81; F 1.1.290-91), must learn. In the Folio, therefore, such
lines would have to be cut in order to achieve the consistently disjointed,
enigmatic logic of the natural, since they clearly mark the Fool in the
Quarto as the bitterly rational, wise artificial fool.
Because the Q text so emphatically establishes Lear's folly in dividing
the kingdom and abdicating his throne, the Fool's later commentary
invoking inversion also has an artificial fool's typically biting irony in Q.
Subsequent jibes recall the commonplace early modern theme of "the
world turned upside down." As Peter Burke has shown, the "reversal
between man and beast: the horse turned farrier" and the age and status
reversal where the child "is shown beating [the| father" were familiar
themes in these mid-sixteenth century illustrations.32 As was typical of
parts written for Armin, who claimed it was his very "profession / To jest
at . . . transgression," in the Quarto the Fool's attacks in 1.4 on the folly
of abdication provide a context that clarifies and motivates the Fool's
choric use of inversionary imagery to demonstrate that Lear has foolishly
transgressed. Lear's foolish decision, the Fool rails, has turned the world
topsy-turvy by reversing power and status: "When thou clovest thy
crown i' the middle and gav'st away both parts, thou borest thine ass o'
th' back o'er the dirt" (Q 1.4.149-51; F 1.4.135-37); "[T]hou mad'st thy
daughters thy mother . . . when thou gav'st them the rod and putt'st
down thine own breeches" (Q 1.4.160-62; F 1.4.146-48); and "May not
an ass know when the cart draws the horse?" (Q 1.4.211; F 1.4.197). In

32. Peter Burke, Popular Culture in Early Modern Europe (New York, 1978), pp. 188-89.

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Robert Β. Hornback 321

associating Lear's abdication with the world turned

bitter artificial Fool puts down carnivalesque inversion
the transgressive natural fool Lear.
The exchange in 1.4 in the Quarto shows that the sup
clever Fool, recognizing that the normal order has b
Lear's foolish abdication, does not revel in the inve
attacks it. For the artificial Fool in the Quarto, Lear's ab
of his kingdom, and madness are perversions of the no
Theodore Leinwand observes, "The Fool points to all
has turned the world upside down not because, as a foo
able in topsyturvydom. Quite the contrary, the Fool see
has nothing to gain from the disorder Lear brings on
kingdom. The Fool harps on topsyturvydom, even t
little to set things right, because he wants so badly for
equilibrium." Leinwand argues further that "the Quart
the Fool is an artificial fool who has a "stake ... in norm
and a world freed of its folly. The fool is not mad."33 I
is Lear rather than the Fool who foolishly turns the wo
and it is an artificial Fool who repeatedly points out Le
and inversion in an attempt to set things right again. W
self-consciously harps on carnivalesque, topsy-turvy im
to continue an attack on Lear's transgressive folly begu
ι .4, the F Fool's verbal inversions—lacking the lines
i.4.130-44) that present an actual attack on Lear's a
unmotivated and seem to be nonsensical, the standa
humor characteristic of a natural who turns the world
out of any satirically motivated logic, but merely "by n
In their discussions of the Quarto-only exchange i
revisionist scholars such as Foakes assume that the Foo
be assigning the title of "bitter fool" to the King, con
that the Folio version of the Fool, lacking these lines,
ently a bitter one" than the Quarto Fool (p. 134). On
lines out of the insulting context of the Quarto Fool's o
well as from the theatrical context of Armin's specializa

33· Leinwand, pp. 229, 230, 221. Leinwand's comment about "the Quart
specifically to the Quarto-only comments about monopolies which, he ar
conservative political motivation and personal stake in normalcy. Lein
comparison of other Quarto variants.

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322 English Literary Renaissance
bitter-witted artificial fools,34 can one confidently dismiss the fact that
the Q Fool is actually proving Lear a fool. Thus, even if the Quarto Fool
were disingenuously suggesting that he, rather than Lear, is the sweet
fool, we should not ignore the bitterly ironic implications or audacious,
intentional humor of such fooling. If this artificial Fool does appropriate
the title of sweet fool, he does so only to point out the bitter truth that
he has lost the full claim to the title of fool to others, who have not only
adopted the behavior of a fool, but who do it more "naturally."
That the Folio's omission of the 1.4 exchange in Q was not intended
to make the Fool "more consistently a bitter one" is also suggested by the
effectiveness of the Fool's attack in the Quarto-only exchange 011 stage.
In performances of the Quarto at the University of Rochester, noted
above, Richman observed that "in our performance this was one of the
Fool's most successful sequences. 'All thy other titles thou hast given
away; that thou wast born with' elicited a strong reaction from the audi
ence throughout the run. Every night the spectators laughed and gasped,
fully understanding the comedy and growing pain of Lear's situation"
(p. 381). The shock, laughter, and awareness of Lear's pain indicate
that an artificial Fool's obviously bitter humor 111 the Quarto was cer
tainly not lost on its modern audience.
Why, if they are so effective in performance, and if they actually make
the Q Fool the more consistently bitter one, as Richman's production
reveals, were the lines cut in 1.4 of F? One view is that the Quarto Fool's
biting allusions to "monopolies" may have prompted cuts in the Folio
due to censorship. In the context of his critique that the king has given
all his titles away, the Fool claims that even "if he had a monopoly out,"
"lords and great men . . . and ladies too" are such fools that they will not
let him "have all the fool," since "they'll be snatching" at his monopoly
on foolishness (Q 1.4.166-69). Just as Armin's other fools such as Feste are
satirical about universal folly,33 so the Fool's pointed jibe here satirically

34- Equally bitter jesting is, of course, characteristic of Armin's other Shakespearean "fool"
roles since recognizably bitter wit was a hallmark of the artificial fool. The knavish Lavatch, e.g.,
relentlessly taunts the witless Parolles for using a rank metaphor {AWEW, 5.2.6-17). The bitter
Thersites of Troihts and Cressida, a self-described "rascal, a scurvy railing knave" (5.5.28), cruelly
jests that Ajax has "not so much wit . . . [a]s will stop the eye of Helen's needle" (2.1.78-80) and
calls Achilles "thou full dish of fool" (5.1.9) and Patroclus "Achilles' male varl[e]t" (5.1.15).
When Achilles instructs him to bear a letter to Ajax, Thersites retorts, "Let me bear another to
his horse, for that's the more capable creature" (3.3.306-07).
35. The artificial fool generally recognizes the universal folly of mankind. Thus, in Twelfth
Night, Feste shows his awareness of universal folly as he claims: "Foolery, sir, does walk about the

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Robert Β. Homback 323

targets not only Lear's folly in abdicating the throne

Jacobean court, and particularly of King James I, w
giving of monopolies and titles, as Gary Taylor observ
"[T]he Fool's reference to the granting of monopolies
doubt, have been politically sensitive. The King's gran
was debated in Parliament in 1604 and 1606 (as well as
1621). . . .James I was widely criticized for his extrav
of titles, for the incompetence of the 'Lordjs] that co
for the corruption, greed, and promiscuity of his cou
Like the typical scourge of folly, the Quarto's artific
viously critical of the folly of the monarch and his cou
the great stage of fools. Such a conclusion is affirmed
other revisions in the Folio which reduce the Fool's
instance, in the Fool's song in 1.4:
Fools had ne'er less wit ["grace" in F] in a year,
For wise men are grown foppish,
They know not how their wits do ["to" in F] wear,
Their manners are so apish. (Q 1.4.155-58; F 1.4.141-44

While the Q Fool harps on the lack of wit ("less wit")

tion of wit ("their wits do wear") among the suppo
court, the F Fool speaks mildly of "less ^race" and how
if he is speaking merely of fashions.
Critical response to the possibility of censorship of th
and monopolies in 1.4 is instructive since it reveals re
critics' remarkable determination to find F superior t
merely different. For example, the assumption that F
leads inevitably to the conclusion that the play is much
censorship: as Taylor puts it, by "curbing" Shakesp
comment on contemporary abuses [t]he censor . . . [m
timeless work of art a service" (p. 109). And yet Richm
about the effectiveness of the Quarto lines in perform
provided "one of the Fool's most successful sequences,
Folio, whether because of the intervention of a censo
of the Fool's wittiest and most biting comic material.

orb like the sun, it shines everywhere" (3.1.38-39). Likewise, the railing
Cressida (1603) speaks of "[t]he common curse of mankind, folly an
Indeed, "[t]he drift of Armin's fooling ... is towards the universality of

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324 English Literary Renaissance
cannot conclude that the revision is simply an improvement to a timeless
work of art. Whatever the motive for revision, moreover, we must admit
that it was certainly not to enhance comedy or to make the Folio Fool
more consistently bitter and deliberately needling as revisionist critics
Although censorship of the Q-only lines is possible, like the systematic
revisions we have already seen in F, the cuts in the Folio in 1.4 are con
sistent with changes that make the Fool a natural and achieve pathos 111
performance, partly by enhancing our sympathy with Lear. Alter all, part
of the rationale behind (or certainly the effect of) omitting the Quarto
Fool's attack on the king's "monopoly" on folly seems to have been to
make Lear less blameworthy, and thus more pitiable, since F also adds
lines for Lear in 1.1 which, by providing a rational motive for his other
wise rash action in dividing the kingdom and by inviting sympathy for
his age, substantially mitigate his responsibility for the chaos that ensues:
while we
Unburdened crawl toward death. Our son of Cornwall
And you, our no less loving son of Albany,
We have this hour a constant will to publish
Our daughters' several dowers, that future strife
May be prevented now. (F only, 1.1.39-44; TLN 45-50; emphasis added)

Not only does F's addition in 1.1 make Lear's death sound imminent
(e.g., Lear figuratively "crawl[s] toward death"), but as Thomas Clayton
argues, it "lays a strong foundation for the development of sympathy
and admiration by providing Lear with a creditable, rational, and regal
motive for his division of the kingdom"—to prevent "future strife."3''
In F, Lear's motivated choice to divide the kingdom and publish his
daughters' dowers in order to prevent future conflict does not appear
to be so obviously foolish. In turn, the ensuing chaos is represented as
beyond his control and, consequently, not clearly his fault, when F
expands Gloucester's ominous, prophetic ruminations about the "late
eclipses" which "portend no good to us" (Q 1.2.97-98; F 1.2.95-96)
and make "future strife" (F only, 1.1.43; TLN 49) seem fated.37

36. Thomas Clayton, '"Is this the promis'd end?' Revision in the Role of the King," in The
Division of the Kingdoms, p. 125.
37. The added lines appearing in the Folio are: "This villain of mine comes under the predic
tion: there's son against father, the King falls from bias of nature, there's father against child. We
have seen the best of our time. Machinations, hollowness, treachery, and all ruinous disorders
follow us disquietly to our graves" (F only, 1.2.100-105; TLN 439-44).

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Robert Β. Hornback 325

In marked contrast, the Quarto Lear's abbreviated a

his rash "retirement"—as Clayton notes, "his sole state
Quarto"—is blatantly transgressive and foolish because
divide the kingdom in the early text "appears arbitrary
(p. 125). As Richman records in his account of the Qua
at Rochester, although the Quarto "presents a clear, st
king," it nonetheless "lacks the king's sense of the pol
of his actions." Thus, Richman observes, the Folio
"political savvy" than the implicitly foolish Quarto
Richman's deft analyses I would add that the Q Kin
should hardly be considered a mistake. That is, as a resu
in 1.1 of Lear's concern about his age, as well as his
astute consideration of the consequences of his actions
invocations of the world upside down subsequently app
they seem less motivated and even nonsensical. If Le
rational as it appears in F (and if the Fool no longer po
in the decision as he did in 1.4 of Q), then the Fool's su
upside-down riddling begins to resemble the unmotiva
foolery of a natural. Lacking an overtly motivated rat
potential insults and wisdom in F are made to seem acc
ively, then, the revisions in F repeatedly work to mak
simply foolish or irrational while they make the King l
The Folio's omission in 1.4 of the lines referring to t
(from "That lord that counselled thee. . . ." to . . they'
[Q i.4.13 0-45]) not only affects the motivation and log
ing to the world upside down later in the scene, but th
affect perceptions of the Fool's reasoning. He suddenly
because the Folio Fool skips jarringly from an offer to prov
between a sweet and bitter fool to a non sequitur typica

Fool. Dost know the difference, my boy, between a bitt

a sweet one?
Lear. No, lad, teach me.
Fool. Nuncle, give me an egg and I'll give thee two crowns.
(F ι.4.129-31; TLN 667-60).

Again, editors and critics have been puzzled by this variant because few
have entertained the possibility that the earlier Fool could be more
rational than the later one. Even some critics who assume authorial per
fection are thus forced to concede that "to those acquainted with the full

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326 English Literary Renaissance
Quarto text, the Folio's train of thought appears nonsensical" so that this
is "one of the few clumsy cuts in the Folio text" since the compositors
had "to resort to the settling of nonsense."38 Nevertheless, some have gone
so far as to find that the cut makes the Folio less "set" and "monotonous"
and that the seemingly illogical leap in conversation, a "disjunction" or
"dislocation" in the Fool's logic, makes the Folio Fool the "more urbane
and more oblique" one. And although the Folio's later insertion of a
foolish song in the scene in which Lear discovers Kent in the stocks
("Winter's not gone yet" [F only, 2.4.40-48; TLN 1322-27]) may "seem
distressingly irrelevant" and illogical, the assumption that the revised
Fool must be wiser and wittier leads to the view that such out-of-place
non sequiturs or "disjunction^]" are evidence that the Folio Fool is
"hard-headed" and clearly "disengaged from the King" in keeping with
"the Fool's psychology."3'' Yet such disordered logic is characteristic of
the psychology not of a rational artificial fool but of an irrational natural
fool like the mad Jailer's Daughter in The Two Noble Kinsmen (1613).411
The artificial fool's logic is typically ordered, rational, explicit, some
times even formal and pedantic,41 not disjointed like a natural's.
That the Folio's excision of the Fool's logically ordered, biting critique
in 1.4 was probably intended to affect perceptions of his mental capacity is
underscored by variations elsewhere in the Fool's idiom. It is illumin
ating that Jay L. Halio, basing his commentary on his Folio-only New
Cambridge edition, has argued that the F Fool's "characteristic idiom

38. Taylor, p. 107; Steven Urkowitz, Shakespeare's Revision of "King Lear," (Princeton, 1980),
p. 155, n. 21 and p. 13.
39. See, e.g., Kerrigan, pp. 219, 220.
40. As in the following lines:

I am very hungry.
Would I could find a fine frog—he would tell me
News from all parts o' th' world, then would 1 make
A carrack of a cockle-shell, and sail
By east and north-east to the King of the Pygmies,
For he tells fortunes rarely. (3.4.11-16)

41. Mastery of ordered logic was an obvious proof of rationality. As a result, we regularly see
artificial fools making seemingly ridiculous claims that bait their listeners into saying, "How
prove you that?", "Derive this; come," "Tell me thy reason," or "teach me," so that they may
take 011 the persona of a wise teacher or philosopher instructing an ignorant pupil. Thus, Feste is
granted "leave to prove" Olivia a fool (1.5.58) and uses syllogistic constructions in his conclusion
with Sebastian, "Nothing that is so, is so" (4.1.8-9), and in quoting Gorboduc's syllogism, "That
that is is" (4.2.14). In the same fashion Passarello (another Armin role) in Marston's T7ic Malcontent
can "prove anything" (5.1.52) as when he proves that a "valiant" quarreler is a coward in 5.1.47—
51. All citations are to George K. Hunter's edition o(The Malcontent (Manchester, 2000).

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Robert Β. Hornback 327

suggests he is a 'natural' fool, not an 'artificial' one" (p

differences might initially be dismissed as merely the res
house practice, the Fool's idiom in the Folio does inde
natural's. The Folio Fool uses contractions more consist
acteristically than the Quarto Fool and more consisten
characters in the Folio, a "speech habit" that makes the Qu
Fool in performance sound more educated and articulate
To cite but a few instances, the Folio substitutes "tho
wilt" (F i.4.157; TLN 696; Q sig. Di); "o'thing" for
i.4.159; TLN 698; Q sig. Di); "'em" for "them" (F 1.5.3
sig. D3); "that's" for "that is" (F 1.5.48; TLN 923; Q sig.
for "thou hadst" (F 2.4.44; TLN 1338; Q sig. E4); and "'tis"
(F 3.4.98; TLN 1891; Q sig. G2v). The Folio text also om
words that made the Quarto's artificial Fool's syntax s
sophisticated, and logical by comparison. For instance, in
the Quarto's line "Truth is a dog that must to kenne
becomes the rougher "Truth's a dog must to kennel"
641); the line "He that keeps neither crust nor crumb" (Q
Quarto text becomes "He that keeps nor crust nor crumb
(F i.4.171; TLN 710); and the Quarto's version of the lin
in's body cold" (Q 3.4.100) becomes "all the rest on's bo
Folio (F 3.4.104; TLN 1893-94). While Folio variants may, a
reflect print shop practice, they have certainly encourage
more alien dialects and even half-witted voices in perform
in Adrian Noble's famous 1982 Royal Shakespeare Theat
Antony Sher used what he characterized as a "goonish" lo
bite that he himself believed made him sound "slightly r
Linda Scott Kerr played a "babbling" natural with a so
Glaswegian accent in the 1990 RSC production.42
favored Folio text, then, performers have concurred wit
pretation that the Fool's "characteristic idiom suggests h

42. Both productions followed the Folio more than the Quarto. Sher pr
account of his performance in "The Fool in King Lear," Players of Shakes
Jackson and Robert Smallwood (Cambridge, Eng., 1988, 1993), pp. 151-65
Whereas Kerr gave the Fool a northern dialect, the consistently elided form
speech were one of the "signature features of [the] literary southern English
for the exclusive use of'clownish' characters," partly because "dialects of
. . . were often understood as languages of'misrule.'" Paula Blank, Broken E
the Politics of Language in Renaissance Writings ( London, 1996), pp. 80—81.

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328 English Literary Renaissance
Beyond the logical disjunction that the Folio achieves by cutting the
passage in 1.4 and by altering the Fool's idiom throughout, other revisions
also systematically make the F Fool an irrational natural. After all, only in
the Folio does the Fool make the strange "prophecy Merlin shall make"
(F only, 3.2.96; TLN 1749) in which he predicts that "the realm of
Albion" (F only, 3.2.93; TLN 1745) shall "come to great confusion" (F
only, 3.2.94; TLN 1746). Initially, there is little to distinguish this F-only
prophecy from the satiric jesting of an artificial fool as it appears to com
ment, allusively, on petty problems in Jacobean England:

I'll speak a prophecy ere I go:

When priests are more in word than matter,
When brewers mar their malt with water,
Hhien nobles are their tailors' tutors

(F only, 3.2.79-83; TLN 1735-38)

But the prophecy soon falls inexplicably from satire into impossibilities
and enigma as it implies that, at the same time, an ideal world will sub
sequently cause confusion:

No heretics burned but wenches' tutors,

When every case in law is right,
No squire in debt, nor no poor knight,
Wlten slanders do not live in tongues,
Nor cut-purses come not to throngs,
When usurers tell their gold i'the field,
And bawds and whores do churches build,
Then shall the realm of Albion
Come to great confusion;
Then comes the time, who lives to sec't,
That going shall be used with feet.
This prophecy Merlin shall make, for I live before his time.
(F only, 3.2.84-96; TLN 1739-1749)

While the Fool begins logically enough predicting that the conditions in
Renaissance England will be less than perfect, when he illogically shifts
to predicting that Renaissance England will then fall into chaos because
things will also be just and right, his description begins to acquire the
illogical, disjointed, accidental quality of the natural. Then will come the
time, he somewhat lamely concludes, when walking shall be done on
feet. Most importantly, the Fool calls attention to the fact that he actu
ally lives before Merlin. In fact, as Renaissance audiences would have

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Robert Β. Hornback 329

known, he does: according to Holinshed's popular Rena

account, Lear reigned in the eighth century B.C.E., wher
in the sixth century A.C.E. To make such a prophec
would have to be "touched" or preternaturally gifted l
A natural's disjointed, enigmatic psychology is also, I
evident in one of the most interesting—and most
revisions. In Q, Lear rails
Who is it that can tell me who I am?
Lear's shadow? I would learn that, for by the marks
Of sovereignty, knowledge and reason,
I should be false persuaded I had daughters.
Fool. Which they will make an obedient father.
Lear. Your name, fair gentlewoman? (Q 1.4.218—23)

The Quarto shows Lear's wits beginning "to turn" as he gropes slowly
toward self-knowledge, while the Quarto's artificial Fool continues to
harp intentionally on the theme we saw earlier: Lear's foolish inversion
of the normal social order in abdicating power to his daughters who have
assumed the disciplinary role of parent/ruler in treating Lear like a dis
obedient child/subject. The Folio, on the other hand reads as follows:
Lear. . . . Who is it that can tell me who I am?
Fool. Lear's shadow.
Lear. Y our name, fair gentlewoman?
(F 1.4.203-205; TLN 743-45)

Although both Fools' lines sting, the F text offers a brilliant revision, one
which future productions otherwise following the Q text closely may
wish to keep because it is so hauntingly effective in performance. But the
Folio's line can also call to mind the unintentional wisdom of a natural
fool gifted with profound insights that he cannot explain.
In addition to revisions making the Fool appear more irrational,
among F's most subtle yet significant revisions to the Fool's character are
those that alter speech headings in the Fool's exchanges with Lear and
Kent in 1.4 to remove the intentional bitterness characteristic of artificial
fools. Along with the Folio's cuts of the Fool's bitterest attack on Lear's
folly there, the F text changes speech headings to insure that the Fool's
remaining bitter lines do not come as a direct response to whomever he
is insulting. The resulting shift toward indirection in F mitigates the
severity and undercuts the intentionality of the Fool's insults. For
instance, after the Fool's first entrance, in 1.4 in the Quarto, the Fool first

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330 English Literary Renaissance
intentionally mocks the disguised Kent (whom he seems to recognize),
and only then turns to his next opponent, Lear. After twice offering Kent
his coxcomb, the Quarto text has Kent respond, "Why, fool?" (Q 1.4.91),
whereas the Folio text assigns the question to Lear: "Why, my boy?"
(F 1.4.93; TLN 628). Because the questioner is Kent in the Quarto version,
the ensuing response pointedly takes place only between the Fool and
Kent, while Lear is the one impudently discussed as "this fellow":

Kent. Why, fool? [F: Lear. Why, my boy?]

Fool. Why, for taking one's part that's out ot favour. Nay, and thou
canst not smile as the wind sits, thou'lt catch cold shortly. There,
take my coxcomb. Why, this fellow hath banished two on's
daughters and done the third a blessing against his will. If thou
follow him, thou must needs wear my coxcomb. . . . (Q 1.4.91
97; F 1.4.93-99; TLN 628-34)

Whereas the Quarto's artificial Fool bitterly jests about Kent's folly in
following a foolish king, the Folio's choice to replace Kent's question
with Lear's "Why, my boy?" divides the Fool's attention (between Kent
and Lear) and makes the Fool's commentary on Kent's folly in serving
Lear non-confrontational, apparently innocent and unintentional, since
the Fool no longer directly confronts Kent at length before taking on
Lear. The exchange with Kent in the Quarto postpones a long-absent
and independent artificial Fool's acknowledgement of Lear since it
intervenes between the King's earlier greeting to the Fool, "How now,
my pretty knave, how dost thou?" (Q 1.4.89; F 1.4.91), and the Fool's
eventual, pointedly bitter and delayed acknowledgement of Lear. In the
Quarto text it is only after successfully disposing of Kent and rudely
ignoring his King for ten lines as if he were nobody that the bitter Fool
finally acknowledges the King, "How now, nuncle? Would I had two
coxcombs and two daughters" (Q 1.4.97-98; F 1.4.99-100), whereas the
Folio revision makes a natural Fool address some of his early responses
immediately, and therefore more respectfully, to Lear.
Later in 1.4, the Folio changes a speech heading again, effectively
decreasing the bitterness and intentionality ot a direct criticism once
more. After the Fool teaches Lear his rhyming speech ("Have more than
thou showest, / Speak less than thou knowest," etc., Q 1.4. no—19;
F 1.4.111-20), the Quarto text has Lear respond directly to the Fool's
address to him, "This is nothing, fool" (Q 1.4.120), while F's revision
assigns the line to Kent:

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Robert Β. Hornback 3 31

Lear. This is nothing, fool. (Assigned to Kent in F.)

Fool. Then like the breath of an unfee'd lawyer, you gav
for't. Can you make no use of nothing, uncle?
Lear. Why no, boy; nothing can be made out of nothing.
Fool, [to Kent] Prithee tell him, so much the rent of his land
will not believe a fool.
Lear. A bitter fool. (Q 1.4.120-26; F 1.4.121-28; TLN 658-66)

The intentional jesting of an artificial Fool in the Quarto, where the

Fool is allowed to respond directly to Lear, is once again diffused in the
Folio, diverted away from the Fool's butt (Lear) by Kent's interjection.
By contrast, in the Quarto the Fool not only aggressively mocks Lear's
foolishness by addressing him directly, but he bitterly harps on the word
"nothing." Such self-conscious usage suggests that the Quarto's bitter
artificial Fool has knowledge of Lear's earlier exchange with Cordelia,
since he pointedly directs his use of the word "nothing" to Lear rather than
diffusing the sting of an innocent word choice by deflecting the speech
toward Kent. The Quarto Fool's acerbic harping on the painful word
"nothing," moreover, is consistent with the Fool's pursuit of this theme
later in the scene with Lear as at "Thou hast paired thy wit o' both sides
and left nothing i' the middle" (Q 1.4.174-75; F 1.4.160-61); "Now thou
art an Ο without a figure. I am better than thou art now; I am a fool, thou
art nothing" (Q 1.4.180-82; F 1.4.166-68); and "I will hold my tongue; so
your face bids me, though you say nothing" (Q 1.4.182—83; F 1.4.168—69).
The Quarto Fool's direct responses in the exchanges at 1.4.92 and
1.4.121 make the Fool seem unmistakably aware of the sting the word
will inflict throughout the scene as he provokes Lear's comment that he
is "A bitter fool." The Folio, by contrast, characteristically and intentionally
undercuts the bitterness of the fool's word choice to make him an innocent.
As a rule, critics have offered unsatisfying accounts for these changes,
arguing that F's alterations of the speech prefixes from Kent to Lear at
the earlier F 1.4.93 (TLN 627; Q 1.4.91) and from Lear to Kent at the
later F 1.4.121 (TLN 658; Q 1.4.120) in the Folio merely break "monot
onous" exchanges or that the altered speech headings make the Fool
more "acerbic" (even though the F Fool only turns his wit directly
against Kent at the "unfee'd lawyer" line [Q 1.4.121; F 1.4.122; TLN
659] rather than more aggressively after Q's "Why, fool?" some thirty
one lines earlier).43 Instead, the direct address throughout Q makes the

43- Kerrigan, p. 219; Foakes, p. 134.

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332 English Literary Renaissance
Fool's criticism in that version pointed, while the Folio's revised, diffused
speech headings seem to have the effect of making the Fool there less
aggressive and less persistent. The Quarto Fool's direct attacks against
Lear's folly and Kent's foolish faithfulness are unmistakably intentional
or "[deliberate] needling" since his responses suggest that he rather than
Lear or Kent orchestrates the scene. Instead of innocently or accidentally
reacting to the other characters as in F, the Q Fool, consistent with
Armin's fool type, intentionally provokes them and sets them up with
riddles in order to knock them down and prove them fools.
Within such a coherent pattern of variants we are able to appreciate
a subtle variant that also appears in 1.4, which makes the Fool in the
Quarto a bitter, pestilent fool rather than simply an irritant, and which
reinforces the Q Fool's status as a professional artificial fool. After the
Quarto's Fool offers Lear his coxcomb and tells him to beg another of his
daughters whom he likens to Lady Brach, the Quarto text has Lear
respond, "A pestilent £»// to me" (Q sig. C4V),44 "gull" being synonymous
with "fool," and "pestilent" marking him paradoxically as an intention
ally bitter artificial one, while the Folio revision has Lear respond, "A
pestilent gall to me" (F 1.4.107; TLN 644), typically glossed merely as a
"source of irritation." Even though this detail could once again be ascribed
to print shop misconstructions, an "accidental" in the text, the difference
should not be dismissed off-hand as necessarily typographical since the
"bitter gull's" consistency with the general tenor of Q's more bitter and
aggressive Fool makes this possibility less likely. In the Quarto text Lear's
use of "gull" alludes to the Fool's profession as fool, forming a parallel to
his irritable retort twenty-four lines later, "A bitter fool" (Q 1.4.126; F
1.4.128), since the lines together distinguish him as an artificial fool. The
Folio's later "gall" could just as easily be attributed to print shop error, but
there too the choice of a word for a natural irritant seems entirely appro
priate to F's occasionally unwittingly irritating natural Fool. The Quarto
Fool, by contrast, like Armin's fools, is not merely an unwitting natural
irritant but an intentionally biting, "pestilent gull," a "bitter" gadfly.44

44· In the parallel text edition Weis apparently takes "gull" as a type-setting error, since he
changes it to the Folio's "gall" reading.
4$. Playwrights regularly emphasized the bitterness of Armin's artificial fools. Hence Passarello,
added to Marston's The Malcontent in 1604 because of Armin's overwhelming popularity, would
have to be a "pestilent fool!" and a "bitter fool!" (3.1.126, 142). Ben Jonson's Carlo Buffone in
Every Man Out of His Humour (1599) is, likewise, "an impudent . . . common jester, a violent
rayler . . . whose company is desir'd of all men, but belov'd of none" (Induction 11. 351—53). Ben
Jonson, Every Man Out of His Humour, ed. Helen Ostovich (Manchester, 2001).

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Robert Β. Hornback 333

Cumulatively, the evidence supports the contention that the Folio

revisions tend to cut bitter comedy and create pathos, while they make
the Fool a typically sweet, pathetic natural. Rasmussen has argued that
revision was most often motivated by a desire to "keep pace with current
theatrical trends." And we have seen how the Quarto text was consistent
with one such trend, the fad for artificial fools played by Armin during
his tenure with Shakespeare's company. I want now to suggest that the
revisions that appear in the Folio were motivated by a desire to keep pace
with a later theatrical trend that flowered after Armin's apparent retire
ment (c. 1613). Although some of the changes in the Folio Fool, such as
the critique of excessive monopolies, may have been motivated by censor
ship, most of the omissions and additions in the Folio character seem to
reflect a purposeful shift toward more pathos in the drama. Although
it would be unwise to place too much significance on the shift in title
between the two editions because these differences could easily be
ascribed to differing print shop practices, that the Quarto is called a
"History" while the Folio is deemed a "Tragedy" is consistent with the
general shift in tone between the two versions of King Lear. The Folio's
tragic version is more sharply focused on the domestic tragedy of Lear
and Cordelia, just as the Quarto history stresses "the stuff of history,"
the unfortunate loss of judgment resulting in strife and disorder. To cite
one notable example, F cuts the references to a broader historic conflict,
the war with France. Similarly, Foakes shrewdly observes that F trims
substantially many parts, such as Kent's, Edmund's, Edgar's, and Albany's
"in the later acts of the play," and cuts some thirty-three lines (develop
ing the marital relationship between the vindictive Goneril and the
sympathetic Albany) in 4.2, apparently in order to focus on the pathos
of Lear's personal tragedy. As a result, in F, Kent, Edgar, and Albany all
become "more ambiguous," while Edmund is less confident and defiant.46
The Folio's sharp focus on the pathos of relationships, not only be
tween a pitiable king and his pathetic Fool, but between an aging father
and a banished daughter, also reflects a theatrical trend in so far as it
makes King Lear similar to Shakespeare's latest plays, the romances, in
which pathos is more essential to the effect. In keeping with this aesthetic
shift, in the Folio Cordelia becomes more like the sentimental pathetic

46. Foakes, pp. 132, 143, 145. See also Urkowitz, pp. 80-128; Michael Warren, "The Diminu
tion of Kent," in The Division of the Kingdoms, pp. 59—74.

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334 English Literary Renaissance
heroines of the romances. As Grace Ioppolo has demonstrated, whereas
Cordelia is an active, military agent in Q, in F she becomes a more
passive companion for her father.47 Likewise, as we have seen, with
remarkable economy, the revisions in the Folio cut or undercut the
Fool's bitterest, wisest, and funniest moments as they subtly but consist
ently add pathos rather than comedy to the Fool's scenes. Recall that
precisely such aesthetic goals were announced in the prologue to Henry
VIII( 1613):
I come no more to make you laugh; things now
That bear a weighty and a serious brow,
Sad, high, and working, full of state and woe;
Such noble scenes as draw the eye to flow,
We now present. (Pro. 1—5; emphasis added)

Like the prologue to Henry VIII, the F Fool came "no more to make you
laugh" but to "draw the eye to flow." Interestingly, then, when the nat
ural reappeared on stage in the Lear Folio after Armin's tenure as stage
fool he was not really subversive as earlier carnivalesque naturals had
been. Instead, the potential subversion in the natural has been neutralized,
ironically enough, tamed, or "normed," as the Folio Fool is, ultimately,
by the time of his disappearance from the play, almost entirely an abject,
sweetly pathetic figure—an exaggerated version of one potentially poign
ant trait of a natural.

"Sweetness," as Marvin Rosenberg has observed, "was |also] in the

first known portrayal [of Lear's FoolJ, in Macready's Lear of 1838,"
where Priscilla Florton's sweet, pathetic Fool "set a pattern for later
women Fools."48 The popularity of such sweet fools often portrayed by
women throughout the nineteenth century further established a pattern
for later Shakespearean fools in performance generally. Since the Fool's
return to the stage in 1838, that is, since Priscilla Florton's "simple-witted"
"half-idiot," "being identified with the pathos and passion of the
scene,"49 actors have often tended to play the character as a sweet, comic
butt, a sad clown who is laughed at, but pitied. To cite a few recent,
famous examples of such an interpretation, Linda Scott Kerr's 1990
Royal Shakespeare Company sweet simpleton left the stage "mouthing

47- Grace loppolo, "Revising King Lear and Revising 'Theory,'" Revising Shakespeare
(Cambridge, Mass., 1991), pp. 161-88.
48. Rosenberg, pp. 107-08.
49. Forster, p. 76.

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Robert Β. Hornback 335

inaudible nonsense" at the end of the storm scene

featured an abused but faithful, youthful village idiot
incredibly influential Fool was a "goonish" sound
cast," a down-and-out Chariot clown in white face
nose, crumpled bowler hat, tail-coat, over-sized shoes
trousers. Partly as a result of such a well-defined pat
tradition, the Fool usually comes across as uninten
pathetic rather than witty and bitter; that is, in Renai
he seems to be a natural fool, rather than a sane, witty, b
artificial fool. Although this dominant portrayal of
attributed in part to the continuation of an emphasi
tradition that began in 1838, over two hundred year
wrote the play, as I hope I have demonstrated, the te
sweet/pathetic Fool tradition was already present in
posedly definitive text favored by editors and in the t
Y et far from being merely an inferior or simply un
Quarto has much to tell us about the comedy of Shak
fools. It is illuminating that Richman's commentary
in performance indicates that the Folio cut some of th
material in 1.4 and 3.6. Scrutiny of the variants sugge
Lear offers a Fool more consistent with the roles written for Armin. The
Quarto Fool is hostile toward inversion, while the natural Fool in the
Folio is not. With the exception of the Folio Lear, fools (as opposed to
clowns) in Shakespeare's plays do not typically turn the world upside
down, but rather they mock those that do. The comedy of artificial
fools, then, is not reducible to carnivalesque models or to the subver
sion/containment paradigm. Instead, the artificial fool attacks natural
folly and deviance with wry, bitter humor, but the Folio Fool is the
exception that proves the rule that Shakespeare's fools are much more
normative than we might expect. In the Quarto Lear is "the natural fool
of Fortune" (Q 4.6.178; F 4.5.184), not his Fool. Therefore, the Quarto
is not, as most revisionist critics have thus far assumed, a defective ver
sion of F, a failed attempt to achieve the supposedly superior effects
that the Folio does; on the contrary, Q is entirely successful in achieving
profoundly different, purposeful effects.
Recognition of the Quarto Fool's "artificial" characteristics could
conceivably open up new opportunities for performances of the play
while clarifying one source of ambiguities in the character. Directors
who employ doubling and also wish to achieve a strong Cordelia and/or

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336 English Literary Renaissance
a bitter, witty Fool (as well as a culpable Lear), for instance, could choose
Quarto variants. Alternatively, directors wishing to produce pathos in
the relationship between Lear and the Fool might wish to follow th
Folio's natural Fool closely. The tradition of doubling the Fool and
Cordelia to heighten pathos may be even more effective if the F text i
used, since Cordelia is a more passive, sentimentalized, pathetic com
panion to Lear in F than she is in Q—and since pathos is primarily the
effect of the line motivating such potential doubling, "my poor fool is
hanged" (5.3.304). The stage legend that the Fool and Cordelia double
in the original performances is, I believe, more likely in the origina
performances of the Folio than in the initial performances of the Quarto
not merely because of the forty-something Armin's specialization i
artificial fools, but precisely because both the Fool and Cordelia seem to
have been revised to heighten pathos. The actor who played the patheti
female natural fool, the Jailer's Daughter, in Fletcher's and Shakespeare's
The Two Noble Kinsmen in 1613 would have been remarkably suited to
play not only a more pathetic Cordelia in F but also to perform the Folio
revisions to the Fool, since the Jailer's Daughter is, like F's Fool, a swee
natural. Since Two Noble Kinsmen seems to have been a popular play, a
desire to cash in on a fool similar to that play's may even have prompted
the revisions extant in the Lear Folio text after Armin's retirement in the
same year.
Alternatively, the F revision to the Fool's part may also have been
undertaken for Armin's apparent successor, the actor John Shank (or
Shanke), who is thought to have joined the company and taken over
the comic roles sometime "between January 11, 1613, when he is [still]
named in the license to the Palsgrave's troupe, and March 27, 1619,
when his name occurs in the patent to the King's Men." According
to William Turner's A Dish of Lenten Stiff (1613), Shank was known
for "sing[ingj his rimes," and he authored the song "Now Crecht me
save, Poor Irish knave" and Shankes Ordinary (a jig?), and therefore his
arrival may have motivated the addition in F of the nonsensical rhym
ing prophecy in 3.3, often sung in performance.Dl) Baldwin Maxwell
has also argued that Shank was especially known for "thin" roles, being
virtually the very "image of famine" and being described as "a walking

50. Edwin Nungezer, A Dictionary of Actors and of Other Persons Associated with the Public Rep
resentation of Plays in England before 1642 (New York, 1968), p. 317. For discussion of Shank's
connection to singing, as well as jigs, see p. 319.

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Robert Β. Hornback 337

Skeleton,"bl which may suggest that he appeared frail, mo

additional concern for his health and his subsequent deat
If the Fool's part was revised for an actor around the tim
Kinsmen in 1613, before his own retirement probably in
Shakespeare may have been the reviser, or at least may h
in the revision, perhaps once again in collaboration w
the revision was for Shank, however, it becomes increasi
that the reviser was not Shakespeare at all, since Shank w
Palsgrave's troupe in January of 1613 (the New Year in t
calendar began on March 2$) and there was no clown a
Will Somers in Shakespeare's Henry Π1Ι in the same year,
the King's Men went without a clown for some time. In
with the Fool's part subsequently revised for Shank (perh
after 1619, three years after Shakespeare's death, when Sh
to appear in company records),52 it is most likely that
would then have been the King's Men's chief playwright,
revision alone. If, however, Maxwell is correct that Shank
played the comic role in Beaumont and Fletcher's Bonduc
where "we have sport furnished by the leanness of the co
then Shank was "affiliated with the King's Men within a
short time after he is last recorded as a member of Palsgra
In this case, Shakespeare may again have had a hand
revision. Moreover, there is the intriguing possibility th
then have doubled as the Fool and Cordelia, since it would
sible that this singing thin man played the Jailer's Daught
who is represented as starving (e.g., "I am very hungry" [
not eat (e.g., "altogether without appetite" [4.3.4], "This m
to eat" [4.3.94]) and who repeatedly sings in her madness.
fixed authorship aside, as Rasmussen's work suggests,
"theatrical trends" such as the popularity of a pathetic f
a new clown—and such actor-specific trends—which o

51. Baldwin Maxwell, Studies in Beaumont, Fletcher, and Massinger (Chapel Hill, 1939), Chapter
7, "The Hungry Knave in the Beaumont and Fletcher Plays," pp. 74-83.
52. While there is no record of Shank with the company before this time, after March 27,
1619, "when his name occurs in the patent to the King's Men," we find Shank mentioned "in
the livery allowances of May 19, 1619, and April 7, 1621; in the submission for playing The
Spanish Viceroy, without license, December 20, 1624 ... ; in the list of players who took part in
Kingjames's funeral procession on May 7, 1625; in the patent ofjune 24, 1625; . . . and in the
folio list of Shakespearean actors." Nungezer, pp. 317—18.

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338 English Literary Renaissance
Equally important, a better understanding of the Quarto Fool has the
potential ot helping to address a malaise affecting this remarkable play
in performance. It is striking how desperate many theater critics have
seemed for a new interpretation of King Lear, and of the Fool in particular.
In an article in The Independent (1991), John Field suggested "a ban on
productions of King Lear for three years." In an Observer article the
following year, Simon Treves's solution was even more drastic as he lists
among his ten commandments for Shakespeare productions, "No, repeat
no, productions of King Lear for at least 10 years." His Commandments
8 and 9 have special requirements for the Fool: "(8) All Shakespeare
clowns must be funny; this instruction to go hand-in-hand with: (9) No
red noses."33 Treves's pleas have had little impact, for since 1992 the
proliferation of Antony Sher-inspired red-nosed, pathetic, tramp clown
Fools continues.

Perhaps more Quarto-based Fool performances might inspire a new

tradition (or revive the fascinating Renaissance tradition of the artificial
fool). It is striking how consistently revisionist textual critics seem to
prefer a bitter Fool on artistic grounds, apparently associating bitterness
with a sophisticated type of humor which they assume must have been
achieved later in Shakespeare's career. As a result of their determination
to prove the Folio a more artful (and thus presumably a more authoritative)
text, even the most brilliant Shakespearean scholars have virtually turned
somersaults to find the Folio Fool more bitter and witty than the Quarto
Fool. However, if a fresh "new" interpretation of a bitter, funny Fool is
what critics want, he can be found in the older text, the Quarto. On the
other hand, while the Q Fool may currently satisfy modern tastes and
theatrical trends, we should not be so jaded as to think that the pathetic
natural Fool in the Folio is not itself "artful." The Folio revision of the
Fool—even if not necessarily Shakespearean — is remarkably effective.
It simply produces a strikingly different effect than critics have expected
to find.


53- Quoted in Susan Bennett, Performing Nostalgia: Shifting Shakesp

Past (London, 1996), p. 47.

1 2004 English Literary Renaissance Inc.

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