(Something not written on a lovely Spring day such as this:)
My mind moves predictably. If I see birds on bare trees on a winter’s morning I’m like to think about a cold and rook-delighting Heaven, or, occasionally, Christ climbing down from his bare tree. Underdressed for the weather, as I am today (having been too lazy yet to climb up to the attic to retrieve my real winter coat, and making do with a lined raincoat) I mutter “Poor Tom’s a-cold.”
If this proves to be the day that someone comes by to offer me the free use of a theatre and a company of actors, I think I might do the play as Tom a’Bedlam’s fantasy. He is exactly what he seems; a poor naked madman freezing to death in the open. He –why not? -- conjures up a king to come to his rescue, but, as is proper to a mad man, he calls up a mad king. Tom splits himself into the two brothers; what has driven him to his present situation is that in himself which is at war. All the characters, in fact, are projections of Tom, save Lear and the Fool. In conjuring up Lear, Tom has evoked a God grown very old and uncertain of his powers. The Fool is Satan, who will be loyal to God once there’s no profit in it.
It would be far more fun to spin this out than it will be to read the Dwight file and ponder the Gray decision and look at the problem called Baptiste through eyes all asquint, but the same cruel necessity which made Cromwell cut off King Charles I's head still enforces us to acts of barbarism, and I’ll simply have to apologize in the chapel at midnight.
Poor Tom’s a-cold, which is no great wonder, what with being naked in the open, and a nasty storm raging, too. In such circumstances, what can a mere forked radish do but conjure what comfort he can, be it ever so meagre? Warmth is needed, and shelter, but even more he craves company. His wide eyes stare without blinking into the rain and figures slowly coalesce. Two of them; a king and a fool. Tom knows it’s a king, though a very very old one, because he wears a crown. The fool carries a bauble, the badge of his office, and that he has small horns peeping through his hair may be set down to the vagaries of wits gone wandering.
On the one hand, the King is gracious and wraps Tom in his cloak. On the other – his luck! – the King is as mad as Tom and, worse, doesn’t seem to know it. The fool leads them both to a cave, though Tom knows very well there are no caves out here (No Kings either, he reflects).