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Yeats’ Fool as a Symbol of Subjectivity

  • Journal of Modern English Drama
  • Abbr : JMBARD
  • 2008, 21(3), pp.205-233
  • Publisher : 한국현대영미드라마학회
  • Research Area : Humanities > English Language and Literature > English Literature > Contemporary English Drama

Rim, Dohyun 1

1서울시립대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

This article provides an analysis of the role played by the fool in the plays of W. B. Yeats. It seeks to define Yeats' use of the fool within the twofold context: one is the model provided in the plays of Shakespeare, and the other is the position that it occupies within Yeats' wider conceptual understanding, as explained in his prose writings. Those writings, especially his extended metaphysical study A Vision, show Yeats to be preoccupied by the notion of the fool as the embodiment of a special kind of wisdom that is lacking in the supposedly wise. The fool provides a counterpoint to the limitations of conventional understanding, which is defined as "objective" by offering a "subjective" perspective. After establishing the antithesis between "objective" and "subjective," which can also be interpreted as an antagonism between the self and the anti-self, this article goes on to consider the Shakespearean origins of Yeats' fool. Of the three types of fool found in Shakespeare's plays (the parasitical Buffon, the Court-Fool and the Stage-Clown) Yeats' fools bear the greatest resemblance to the Court-Fool. The most particular reference is made to the Fool in King Lear. Next, discussion focuses on the two plays by Yeats in which fools play the most prominent roles: The Hour-Glass and The Herne's Egg. In conclusion this article argues that Yeats reformed the fool he witnessed in Shakespeare's plays into his own distinctive fool as a dramatic tool to symbolize subjectivity.

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