Madness in King Lear

Attitudes to Insanity The response to madness was harsh and unsympathetic. The common belief was that people showing signs of madness were possessed by devils and that they should be confined in a dark place and whipped.
The Storm The natural world is used to reflect human madness. Lear’s abdication of his powers and the division of his kingdom would have been seen as acts of political madness by Shakespeare’s contemporaries. By tearing up his country, Lear kindles a storm of social frenzy that results in cruelty, blindness, madness and death.
Bedlam Beggars Edgar, as Poor Tom, puts on the madness of a bedlam beggar. Bedlam had a reputation for being brutal and inhumane. Bedlam Beggars are sometimes referred to as ‘Tom O’Bedlam’s’, hence ‘Poor Tom’.