King Lear Act 2, Scene 2: A Textual Difficulty

In William Shakespeare’s King Lear Act 2, Scene 2, the disguised Earl of Kent says this:  “None of these rogues and cowards but Ajax is their fool.” This means: Rogues and cowards surround me, and Ajax is their Fool. Not surprisingly, this is another major insult. Great Ajax was a warrior hero in Homer’s Iliad, but later his reputation declined and he gained a reputation for great stupidity. Kent is saying that among these rogues and cowards who are around him (Edmund, Oswald, Regan, and the Duke of Cornwall), Ajax would be the Fool. As shown by King Lear’s Fool, Fools are not foolish although fools are foolish. In fact, Fools are often wise. Kent is saying that Ajax, as foolish as he was, would be the wise person in this group.

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