English King Lear Notes

Theme: Power “[…] and ’tis our fast intent To shake all cares and business from our age; conferring them on younger strengths, while we unburthen’d crawl toward death” (Act 1 Scene 1)Imagery: Lear conjures an image of a feeble old man who cannot walk upright and must “crawl” like an infant, which suggests that King Lear’s retirement and old age are infantilising- leaving one as weak and vulnerable as an infant
Theme: Power “The younger rises when the old doth fall” (Act 3 Scene 3) OVERVIEW In Edmond’s soliloquy, he states that when his elder, Gloucestor- whom has a large dowry-, falls (dies), the younger (Edmond) will rise in status, financial means amd powerAntithesis: The strong contrast shown through the juxtaposition of opposing words (young/old, rise/fall) symbolises the shift and reversal of titles, power and responsibilities within roles in the chain of being and in Lear’s kingdom
Theme: Nature “Thou, Nature, art my goddess” (Act 1 Scene 2)OVERVIEW Edmond who is labelled as a bastard by society, turns to nature, devoting himself to her religion as it is a force much greater and authentic
Theme: Nature “Crack nature’s moulds, all germens spill at once That mark ungrateful man!” (Act 3 Scene 2) Personification: Lear calls out to the storm to unleash its fury on the world and to destroy the ungrateful man. He believes that by destroying the molds that nature uses to create men, the genetic code of life will be lost. Lear is without hope; his despondency is so great that it approaches nihilism; a belief in nothing
Theme: Madness “I am almost mad myself. I had a son, Now outlawed from my blood. He sought my life, But lately, very late. I loved him friend […] Truth to tell thee the grief hath crazed my wits” (Act 3 Scene 4)OVERVIEW Gloucestor tells Kent about how grief is in the form of madness as he legally disowned Edgar even though he loved himMetaphor: Gloucestor says that Edgar was “outlawed from my blood” meaning he rejected his son from his family and what that represents- a dowry.
Theme: Madness “Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! Rage! Blow! You cataracts and hurricanoes spout till you have drench’d our steeples, drown’d the cocks!” (Act 3 Scene 2)Symbolism: The storm symbolises King Lear’s building madness as his efforts to converse with the storm implies that he has begun to loose touch with his sense of reality
Theme: Nothing Cordelia- “Nothing my lord […]”Lear- “Nothing will come of nothing, speak again” (Act 1 Scene 1)Irony: Gonerill and Regan spoke meaningless, melodramatic declarations of love, yet recieved a portion of the kingdom, yet when Cordelia refused to declare her love as words couldn’t represent her feelings- showing true meaning- Lear threatens to give nothing in return for the absence of Cordelia’s words
Theme: Nothing Lear- “Who is it that can tell me who I am?” Fool- “Lear’s shadow” (Act 1 Scene 4)Metaphor: The fool suggests that Lear, without his crown, is meerly a shadow of his former self. The idea is that Lear is nothing without his former power and respect.