Two weeks before her death, Simone Weil—semi-Catholic philosopher, hunger-striker, political activist—wrote a letter to her parents about the source of truth in Shakespeare:

“There is a class of people in this world who have fallen into the lowest degree of humiliation, far below beggary, and who are deprived not only of all social consideration but also, in everybody’s opinion, of the specific human dignity, reason itself—and these are the only people who, in fact, are able to tell the truth. All the others lie.”

For Weil, the truthful characters are the fools. Neither protagonists nor antagonists, the fools are the outcasts, the supporting roles, the ones for whom no ulterior motives can cloud their eyes. The real tragedy, according to Weil, is not the death of the entire cast, but rather that no one would listen to the fool.

dumb-and-dumber-2“In Lear it is striking. Even Kent and Cordelia attenuate, mitigate, soften, and veil the truth; and unless they are forced to choose between telling it and telling a downright lie, they manoeuvre to evade it. What makes the tragedy extreme is the fact that because the fools possess no academic titles or episcopal dignities and because no one is aware that their sayings deserve the slightest attention—everybody being convinced a priori of the contrary, since they are fools—their expression of truth is not even listened to. Everybody, including Shakespeare’s readers and audiences … is unaware that what they say is true. And not satirically or humorously true, but simply the truth. Pure unadulterated true—luminous, profound and essential.