King Lear Quotations

“Nothing will come of nothing” Lear, act 1 while daughters try to flatter him and Cordelia says no, double entendre: foreshadows that all bad characters die later
“See better, Lear” Kent, act 1 trying to talk sense to Lear, sight is blindness; blindness is sight, Kent is a good friend, ultimacy and beauty of love, true nature of nature (human relationships based on love),
“Tis the infirmity of his age. Yet he hath ever/but slenderly known himself” Regan, act 1 after flattering Lear and Cordelia’s banishment, blind parent (sight blindness oxymoron), false nature of hierarchy (with lust, self interest, and destruction being the other false natures mentioned)
“Thou, Nature, art my goddess” Edmund, act 1 in a soliloquy, false natures of self interest and later lust, desire to be earl
“These late eclipses in the sun and moon/portend no good to us” Gloucester, act 1 while talking with Edmund, internal dating of play (1605-1605, strange eclipses occurred during the time), great chain of being is being disturbed
“this is the excellent foppery of the world, that when we are sick in fortune…we make guilty of our disasters…” Edmund, act 1 in soliloquy, fate versus free will, Edmund supports free will, common humanity
“No, sir, but you have that in your countenance/which I would fain call master” Kent, act 1 upon his return in disguise, ultimacy and beauty of love, loyalty, true nature of nature
“Sirrah, you were best take my coxcomb” Fool, act 1 while meeting Kent, Fool sees through disguise-thus thinking that he is a fool to return, 4 aspects of Shakespearean Fools (teacher, comforter, wise, always tell the truth), sanity is madness; madness is sanity oxymoron
“All thy other titles thou hast given away” Fool, act 1 while advising Lear, 4 aspects of fools, sanity/madness oxymoron, teaching Lear
“give me/ an egg, and I’ll give thee three crowns…thou gav’st your golden one away” Fool, act 1 while advising Lear, 4 aspects, sanity/madness oxymoron, crown is quadruple entendre: money, crown of egg, coronet, top of head, golden one is double entendre: coronet, Cordelia, Fool is the best Shakespearean fool
“Now thou art an O/without a figure” Fool, act 1 while teaching Lear, 4 aspects, sanity/madness oxymoron, double entendre: Lear has 0 things left, the globe
“Lear’s shadow” Fool, act 1 while talking with Goneril and Lear at Goneril’s residence, self definition, true nature, double entendre: Fool will always be by Lear’s side, Lear is a shadow of what he once was
“To make this creature fruitful./Into her womb convey sterility” Lear, act 1 with Albany, false nature of destruction
“Thou wouldst make a good Fool” Fool, end of act 1 while talking with Lear, foreshadowing that Lear becomes Fool (wisens after insanity, tells truth, comforts and teaches Cordelia)
“Loyal and natural boy” Gloucester, beginning of act 2 after condemning Edgar due to Edmund’s treachery, false nature of lust, trying to compensate for the loss of Edgar by legitimizing Edmund
“I am no flatterer” Kent, act 2 while in disguise before being put into the stocks while with Cornwall, Regan, and Oswald, definition of Kent, foil for Regan, Goneril, and Edmund, non flatterer (like Cordelia and the Fool)
“Till noon? Till night, my lord, and all night, too” Regan, act 2 while attempting to extend Kent’s time in the stocks, definition of Regan’s cruelty
“Fortune, good night. Smile once more; turn thy/wheel” Kent, act 2 in soliloquy while in the stocks, fate versus free will (referencing Fortune’s wheel) in support of fate
“My face I’ll grime with filth,/Blanket my loins, elf all my hairs in knots” Edgar, act 2 while dressing up as Tom, appearance versus reality, disguise/clothing motif with rags (like Lear, fool, and Kent (ish)), ultimacy and beauty of love
Fathers that wear rags/Do make their children blind/But fathers that bear bags/Shall see their children kind” Fool, act 2 while teaching Lear, 4 aspects of a Fool (mainly teaching here), explaining that rich parents will see their children try to appease them-children are ungrateful, rag motif
“Let go thy hold when a great wheel/runs down a hill lest it break thy neck with follow/ing; but the great one that goes upward, let him/draw thee after” Fool, act 2 while teaching Lear, 4 aspects, rag motif, explaining that Lear is running out of control, wheel of fortune, dramatic irony since the Fool is hanging on to Lear
“None but the Fool” Gentleman, beginning of act 3 while describing to Kent the situation with Lear, Fool is always by Lear’s side (“Lear’s shadow”), fulfilling role as comforter, 4 aspects, rag motif, dark night of the soul for Lear, madmen leading the blind motif
“Rumble thy bellyful! Spit, fire! Spout, rain….I tax not you, you elements, with unkindness…Then I let fall/Your horrible pleasure” Lear, act 3 in the storm, Lear has gone insane, sanity/madness oxymoron, sight/blindness oxymoron, storm represents disturbance of the great chain of being and is an outward manifestation of internal conflict in Lear, dark night of the soul, undergoing catharsis
“I am a man/More sinned against than sinning” Lear, act 3 while in the storm with Kent and the Fool, insanity of Lear, sanity/madness oxymoron and sight/blindness oxymoron because he begins to realize the wrongdoing of his children, acknowledges the fact that he has messed up but that he does not deserve the consequences
“Wilt break my heart?” Lear, act 3 upon entering the hovel (which later becomes a castle-success/failure oxymoron), shows how everybody has turned against Lear, pathos
“Prithee, go in thyself” Lear, act 3 while allowing Kent to enter the hovel first, first technical climax (there is three of them)-first time he lets someone go before him, success/failure oxymoron
“…Those pelican daughters” Lear, act 3 while in the hovel turned castle with Edgar, Kent, and the Fool, realizes that Goneril and Regan were parasitic-sight/blindness oxymoron
“This cold night will turn us all to fools and/madmen” Fool, act 3 while in hovel, 4 aspects of the Fool, mad men of the play (the Fool, Lear, Edgar, Kent), best people are fools, foreshadowing, madmen leading the blind motif
“Off, off you lendings!” Lear, act 3 in the hovel, 2nd technical climax of the main plot, common humanity of man, letting go of the false nature of hierarchy, failure/success oxymoron
“…for he’s a mad yeoman that sees his son a gentleman before him” Fool, act 3 before “trial” of Goneril and Regan, scrambled syntax, possible realization of “Tom’s” true identity, shows wisdom of the Fool
“And I’ll go to bed at noon” Fool, act 3 after the “trial,” last words of the Fool, big mystery of literature, no shadow at noon-thus not having the need for the Fool (who is “Lear’s shadow”), “go to bed” could be euphemism for death, disappearance could also be due to the facts that Lear has become to Fool and that the Fool and Cordelia were played by the same actor, realistic death could be due to exposure
“But then the mind much sufferance doth o’erskip/When grief hath mates and bearing fellowship” Edgar, act 3 in soliloquy, heroic couplet because of Gloucester, it helps to suffer with friends
“You are my guests; do me no foul play, friends” Gloucester, act 3 in his residence with Regan and Cornwall, describing xenia (which Regan and Cornwall violate because they blind him)
“One side will mock another. Th’ other too” Regan, end of act 3 while trying to get Cornwall to destroy Gloucester’s other eye, another definition of Reagan’s putridness, violation of true nature, false nature of destruction
“O my follies! then Edgar was abused” Gloucester, end of act 3 after being blinded by Cornwall, realization that Edmund betrayed Edgar and that Edgar was innocent, instant epiphany, sight/blindness oxymoron, technical climax of the subplot, dynamic character
“I have no way and therefore want no eyes./I stumbled when I saw” Gloucester, beginning of act 4, realizes that he was blind to the treacheries of Edmund while having his sight-sight/blindness oxymoron, dramatic irony since Edgar is with him,
“As flies to wanton boys are we to th’ gods;/They kill us for their sport” Gloucester, beginning of act 4, gods are so powerful that they treat humans like flies and don’t care about the consequences, fate versus free will in support of fate
“‘Tis the time’s plague when madmen lead the blind” Gloucester, beginning of act 4, referring to Edgar (dressed as Tom) leading himself, similar to Fool leading Lear, dual parallel plots, rag motif
“See thyself, devil!/Proper deformity shows not in the fiend/So horrid as in woman” Albany, act 4 while rebuking Goneril, corrupt beauty is the worst
“But love, dear love, and our aged father’s right” Cordelia, act 4 trying to find Lear, prime concern for father shows the ultimacy and beauty of love and the true nature of nature
“Methinks thy voice is altered and thou speak’st/In better phrase and matter than thou didst” Gloucester in act 4 while being led by Edgar to “commit suicide”, sight/blindess oxymoron, synesthesia (seeing through ears)
“They flattered/me like a dog and told me I had the white hairs in/my beard ere the black ones were there…they told me I was every/thing. ‘Tis a lie. I am not ague-proof” Lear, act 4 on the beach while meeting Gloucester and Edgar, insight into daughters’ treachery because he has undergone catharsis, sight/blindness oxymoron, sanity/madness oxymoron, common humanity, appearance versus reality
“Let me wipe it first; it smells of mortality” Lear, act 4 while meeting Gloucester and Edgar on the beach, illustrates the change in Lear since he has undergone a catharsis, common humanity, success/failure oxymoron, sanity/madness oxymoron
“arm it in rags” Lear, act 4 while meeting Gloucester and Edgar on the beach, ragged clothing motif-people act as guardians
“I am even/The natural fool of fortune” Lear, act 4 on the beach, true nature, reference to Fortune’s wheel (fate versus free will), Lear has become a fool, Lear is dynamic, common humanity
“I will die bravely” Lear, act 4 on the beach, foreshadowing the fact that he kills the captain of the guards that kills Cordelia, success/failure oxymoron
“Do not laugh at me,/For, as I am a man, I think this lady/To be my child Cordelia” Lear, act 4 while meeting Cordelia in the camp, epiphany-fog has cleared, sight/blindness oxymoron, sanity/madness oxymoron, success/failure oxymoron, common humanity, pathos (ish)
“Men must endure/Their going hence even as their coming hither./Ripeness is all. Come on” Edgar, act 5 after losing battle to Cornwall and Albany’s forces, everyone will eventually die; it is the legacy that matters the most, Harrison quotation “…what becomes of us,” shows how Edgar is a fool
“So we’ll live,/And pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh/At gilded butterflies… Lear, act 5 upon being sent to prison along with Cordelia by Edmund, shows how all that matters to Lear at this time is Cordelia, ultimacy and beauty of love, Lear is a fool (comforting and teaching)-Fool gave everything he had to Lear, sanity/madness oxymoron-realizes all that matters is love for Cordelia, success/failure oxymoron, tragic hero support-basically good, true nature
“The wheel is come full circle; I am here” Edmund, act 5 after getting fatally wounded by Edgar, fate versus free will, reference to fortune’s wheel, Edmund later gives away the fact that Cordelia and Lear will die-thus showing the success/failure oxymoron
“…became his guide,/Led him, begged for him, saved him from despair” Edgar, act 5 after fatally wounding Edmund, describing how he guided Gloucester after his blinding (like Fool with Lear), parallel plots, ultimacy and beauty of love, true nature, madmen leading the blind motif
“I am come/To bid my king and master aye goodnight” Kent, end of act 5, Ken assumes Lear will die, night=death, foreshadowing, ultimacy and beauty of love, true nature of nature
“Some good I mean to do/Despite of mine own nature” Edmund, end of act 5, telling Edgar and Albany that he plotted Lear and Cordelia’s deaths, “own nature” describes the false nature of lust and self interest, Edmund is a dynamic character, success/failure oxymoron
“Howl, howl, howl! O, you are men of stones!…She’s gone forever” Lear, end of act 5 while carrying Cordelia’s body, return of the storm and insanity for Lear, wolf motif, pathos
“And my poor fool is hanged” Lear, end of act 5 after bringing in Cordelia’s body, Cordelia was a Fool (taught Lear the ultimacy and beauty of love, comforted him, wise by recognizing sisters’ flattering, honest since she refuses to flatter)
“I have a journey, sir, shortly to go;/My master calls me. I must not say no” Kent, end of act 5 after Lear’s death, possibility euphemism for suicide in order to serve his master even in death, ultimacy and beauty of love, true nature of nature
“Upon the highest altitude the sun shines brightest and the cold snow lies most deep” Alfred Harbage (major Shakespearean critic), greatest and the worst go towards the high power, “highest altitude”=King Lear, Gloucester”cold snow”=Goneril and Regan, Edmund, “sun shines brightest”=Cordelia, Fool, Kent, and Edgar, sun is a symbol of a king
“Its final and total result is one in which pity and terror, carried perhaps to the extreme limits of the art, are so blended with a sense of law and beauty that we feel at last, not depression and much less despair, but a consciousness of greatness in pain, and of solemnity in the mystery we cannot fathom” A.C. Bradley (critic)
“[We see] man’s horror and sense of helplessness at the discovery of evil, represented by Lear, who batters himself to pieces against the fact of evil” Alfred Harbage
“I is not what becomes of us, but what we become. What becomes of Lear is that he is physically destroyed. What he becomes is a human being guided by love” Charles Harrison
“Theme: the nature of nature. The true nature of nature is human relationships based on love” Charles Harrison
“Oxymorons: 1) Sanity is madness; madness is sanity. 2) Sight is blindness; blindness is sight. 3) Success is failure, failure is success” Charles Harrison