In Shakespeare’s King Lear, The Fool is an important character who helps guide Lear through his loss of power and gives him important advice along the way, along with offering comedic relief. That being said, I, along with many other readers, are likely left wondering where The Fool went for acts 4 and 5.
The Fool was extremely loyal and honest to Lear, and stayed by his side throughout his downfall, which is more than many did. The Fool’s role was important, as his honesty likely kept Lear the little sanity he had, saying things such as “Thou hast little wit in thy bald crown when thou gavest thy golden one away” (I.IV.159-160) and “He’s mad that trusts in the tameness of a wolf, a horse’s health, a boy’s love, or a whore’s oath (III.VI.18-19)”. Lear let nearly no one talk back to him, with The Fool being an important exception, as he did it in a comedic manner. The Fool’s honest advice displays his loyalty to Lear, which is partly what makes his disappearance even more mysterious.
The last time The Fool was seen was in Act 3 Scene 6, when Lear is still in the process of going mad and is causing trouble for Kent, Edgar, and The Fool. This makes The Fools disappearance even more strange, as he cares deeply for Lear, and left when Lear needed him most. He dealt with Lear’s madness before, and knew how to handle it, so his sudden disappearance seems a little strange. The Fool doesn’t say anything about where or what he is going to do, which is what truly makes this a mystery. The last line he says is “And I’ll go to bed at noon”(III.vi.90). This line doesn’t exactly say what The Fool is going to, but it hints at the idea that he will die in some way, potentially suicide. This is never proved, however, and Shakespeare’s lack of stage directions builds into this mystery about what happens to The Fool, as it says nothing about what he actually does in that scene.
Finally, in the end, Lear casually mentions “And my poor fool is hanged”(V.iii.369). This line could’ve been interpreted to meaning Cordelia, as she was hanged recently, and calling her his “fool” could’ve been as a sign of endearment to her. On top of that, “fool” isn’t capitalized as the character The Fool’s name had been throughout the entire play, so that also points toward the idea that Lear was referring to someone else. However, it does go along with the fact that The Fool ominously hinted towards his death, and it would explain his absence in Acts 4 and 5, as he was loyal to Lear, and it doesn’t make sense that he would abandon Lear when Lear needed him most.
Overall, The Fool is loyal to Lear, and is one of the few characters who actually cared for Lear and gave him honest advice when he could. The disappearance of The Fool is up to the reader’s interpretation, and, just for what it’s worth, I believe The Fool hanged himself.