What's Love Got To Do With It?

Caregiving and King Lear

A Presentation by The Rev. James Ward

Tuesday, August 14 at 1:00 pm

Our society tends to forget that age-related dementia has always been with us. As if it were caused by the unique stresses of modern life, we give it names to differentiate types and symptoms. Shakespeare’s King Lear’s dementia, triggered by his retirement as king, or vice versa, is characterized by explosive bursts of anger, paranoia, and hallucination, may well fit the contemporary Lewy Body diagnosis. But it’s the caregivers, all of whom find each other in a hovel on the heath sheltered from a terrible storm in disguise for fear of his rage or that of the heirs to whom he has left the kingdom, about whom the plot revolves especially his youngest daughter Cordelia. Having been banished by Lear in his rage, she disguises herself as the King’s beloved jester, at least in some productions, in order to stay near him for support. Her own “Tom foolery” matches word for word the King’s “madness” with wit, wisdom, and love that serve to elevate his character to a place among the great tragic heroes of Western literature.