King Lear Quotes

“His breeding, sir, hath been at my charge. I have so often blushed to acknowledge him that now I am brazed to’t” (Act 1 Scene 1) Gloucester tells Kent that Edmund is his son, but he’s a bastard. He speaks about it in a cold and lewd tone. He flippantly talks about how Edmund’s mother was pregnant and he never married her. Although he sounds harsh, he doesn’t love Edmund any less than his legitimate son Edgar. At this point in the play, we don’t know how Edmund feels about being a bastard.
“Know that we have divided in three our kingdom, and ’tis our fast intent to shake all cares and business from our age, conferring them to younger strengths, [while we unburdened crawl toward death]” (Act 1 Scene 1) Lear is dividing his kingdom into 3, and this is unusual. He wants to unburden himself of his kingly duties by passing his responsibilities on to each of his daughters.
“Which of you shall we say doth love us most, that we our largest bounty may extend where nature doth merit challenge” (Act 1 Scene 1) Lear wants to give his daughters the land now in order to avoid future conflicts between them. He asks each of them to give a speech professing their love toward him. After hearing what they have to say, he will decide if they are worthy of acquiring his kingdom. Goneril and Regan’s speeches are insincere, as they try to win their father over with flattery. Cordelia on the other hand, truly loves her father and is left speechless after hearing the things that her sisters had staged.
“What shall Cordelia speak? Love, and be silent” (Act 1 Scene 1) Cordelia gets nervous after hearing Goneril’s mouthful of a speech. She wonders how she could possibly top all of that and in the end decides to not say anything because she doesn’t want to sound insincere/she genuinely loves her father.
“Nothing will come of nothing. Speak again” (Act 1 Scene 1) Lear is shocked after Cordelia says that she has nothing to say to him to show her love and respect in order to acquire her portion of the kingdom. He thinks that she’s being disrespectful when in reality she doesn’t know how to put her genuine love for him into words and doesn’t wish to speak after hearing all the fluff that her sisters (who don’t actually love their father) had just proclaimed. He tells Cordelia that she should think twice and speak again because no reward (her dowry) will come out of nothing.
“From whom we do exist and cease to be, Here I disclaim all my paternal care” (Act 1 Scene 1) Lear disowns Cordelia after she decides to not speak/proclaim her love for her father. This totally bruises Lear’s ego and angers him enough to not want anything to do with her. He’s lacking insight at this point because he can’t see Goneril and Regan’s agenda/Cordelia’s genuine love for him.
“Reserve thy state, and in thy best consideration check this hideous rashness…thy youngest daughter does not love thee least, nor are those empty-hearted whose low sounds reverb no hollowness” (Act 1 Scene 1) Kent warns Lear that he’s acting too fast without thinking things through and that he’s making a fatal mistake by giving his kingdom to Goneril/Regan and kicking Cordelia out. He assures Lear that although Cordelia couldn’t find the words to express her true feelings, she loves him. Since Kent is someone who has always been loyal to Lear, he’s worried about him and wants to lead him in the right direction.
“If on the tenth day following thy banished trunk be found in our dominions, the moment is thy death. Away! By Jupiter, this shall not be revoked” (Act 1 Scene 1) Stubborn Lear doesn’t listen to Kent’s advice. Instead, he does the opposite by losing his patience and banishing Kent from the kingdom. He precisely says that if he doesn’t pack up and leave within the next 10 days, he will face fatal consequences. We can tell that Lear is starting to lose it, because he’s throwing out Kent (someone who he has always loved and trusted), and this happens right after he throws out Cordelia.
“With reservation of an hundred knights by you to be sustained, shall our abode make you by due turn” (Act 1 Scene 1) Lear officially decides to give his kingdom to Goneril and Regan. The only thing he asks is that they offer housing to he and his 100 knights. Other than that, they’re free to rule/do whatever they desire as long as they always love and respect him. Little does he know that their true intentions are volatile and will leave him heartbroken!
“When she was dear to us, we did hold her so, but now her price has fallen” (Act 1 Scene 1) Lear tells the Duke of Burgundy, who is a potential suitor for Cordelia, that she no longer has a dowry because she was disrespectful to him and he has disowned her. He does this in order to rid Cordelia of the chance of marrying him because he thinks he’s doing Burgundy a favor by freeing him of his daughter. After Burgundy hears all that Lear has to say, he is no longer interested and leaves.
“For you, great king, I would not from your love make such a stay to match you where I hate” (Act 1 Scene 1) Lear tells Burgundy to trust him, and that he likes Burgundy too much to let him fall into the hands of someone as unworthy and wretched as Cordelia.
“A still-soliciting eye and such a tongue that I am glad I have not, though not to have it hath lost me in your liking (Act 1 Scene 1) Cordelia tells Lear that she’s proud of herself for having true eyes and for not having a false tongue, even though this caused her father to hate her.
“Love’s not love when it is mingled with regards that stands aloof from th’ entire point. Will you have her? She herself is a dowry” (Act 1 Scene 1) France is a romantic; he’s more in it for Cordelia herself and not for the dowry. He tells Burgundy and Lear that love isn’t true love when accessories such as money and land are involved. He believes that Cordelia herself is a dowry.
“I know what you are, and like a sister am most loath to call your faults as they are named. Love well our father” (Act 1 Scene 1) Cordelia tells her sisters that she’s totally on to them and knows their true intentions. She only hopes that their actions will speak their words and that they’ll treat their father well.
“You see how full of changes his age is; the observation we had made of it hath {not} been little. He always loved our sister most, and with what poor judgement he hath now cast her off appears too grossly” (Act 1 Scene 1) Goneril and Regan note that their father is acting a little senile. They think that his old age has caused his behavior to be inconstant because he has thrown out Cordelia and Kent; two people who he loves dearly. (Goneril to Regan)
“We must do something, and i’ th’ heat” (Act 1 Scene 1) Goneril tells Regan that they need to act fast and strike while the iron is hot in order to make sure that Lear is always on their side and has their interests at heart.
“Why ‘bastard’? Wherefore ‘base,’ when my dimensions are well compact, my mind as generous and my shape as true as honest madam’s issue?” (Act 1 Scene 2) In this soliloquy, we hear Edmund’s innermost thoughts. He’s extremely ashamed of being a bastard and asks himself why he’s treated the way he if the only differences between him and his brother are a year of age and their mother. Although his father loves him and Edgar equally, he still feels inferior to Edgar and wants to change that.
“Well, my legitimate, if this letter speed and my invention thrive, Edmund the base shall [top] th’ legitimate” (Act 1 Scene 2) Edmund is confident that after showing Gloucester the contents in his made-up letter, Edgar will find himself in a very uncompromising position, after which Edmund will be able to win their father over and acquire his land.
“The quality of nothing hath not such need to hide itself. Let’s see. Come, if it be nothing, I shall not need spectacles” (Act 1 Scene 2) Gloucester is suspicious and wonders why Edmund is trying so hard to hide a letter. When Edmund tells him that it’s nothing, Gloucester says that it shouldn’t need to be hidden if it’s truly nothing. He then reads the letter and is devastated when he finds out that “Edgar is plotting against him and wants to make a deal with Edmund to split the land evenly if he helps him kill their father.” Unfortunately Gloucester doesn’t know that Edmund is behind this entire scheme and is framing Edgar in order to get what he wants.
“It is his hand, my lord, but I hope his heart is not in the contents” (Act 1 Scene 2) Edmund falsely defends Edgar by playing the innocent/loyal brother card in front of Gloucester. By doing this, he makes it impossible for Gloucester to discover his true agenda.
“Thou, Nature art my goddess. To thy law my services are bound” (Act 1 Scene 2) Edmund’s services are bound to nature, but the fact that he’s the bastard makes things more difficult. He needs to figure out how to outrun nature’s path in order to acquire Gloucester’s land instead of Edgar.(Edmund to himself)
“The quality of nothing hath no such need to hide itself” (Act 1 Scene 2) When Edmund is acting suspicious about the letter that he wrote impersonating Edgar, Gloucester is intrigued to see what information the letter holds. This is exactly what Edmund wanted by acting so suspicious in the first place and claiming that it’s “nothing” in order to go Gloucester that much more interested. Gloucester then says that if it really were nothing, he wouldn’t have to try to cover it up. (Gloucester to Edmund)
“I would unstate myself to be in a due resolution” (Act 1 Scene 2) When Gloucester has read the letter from Edgar (really Edmund) to Edmund, he is distraught and wants to know why Edgar is plotting to kill him. For this reason, Gloucester says that he would give up everything, all of his wealth and fortune, to find the truth. This is foreshadowing of how it isn’t until Gloucester loses his eyeballs that he finds the truth. (Gloucester to Edmund about Edgar’s letter)
“Let me, if not by birth, have lands by wit. All with me’s meet that I can fashion fit” (Act 1 Scene 2) Edmund plans to trick his father and his brother because they are so honest and gullible that they would never suspect Edmund to plot against them. Because he can’t rightfully inherit the land, he must outsmart the system and get the land by some other means. Here, Edmund has a feeling of superiority. (Edmund to himself)
“To his father, that so tenderly and entirely loves him! Heaven and Earth! Edmund, seek him out; wind me into him, I pray you” (Act 1 Scene 2) Gloucester is shocked and devastated after Edmund reads him the letter containing his death warrant which is supposedly from Edgar (even though Edmund was the one that actually wrote it). Gloucester is furious and wants to seek Edgar for a confrontation as soon as possible.
“These late eclipses in the sun and moon portend no good to us” (Act 1 Scene 2) Gloucester is superstitious and believes that the eclipses represent a bad omen. He thinks that because of them love, loyalty, and friendship are forgotten and this is why his son Edgar has turned against him (even though it’s all a lie because it’s Edmund’s plot to get all the land).
“Some villain hath done me wrong” (Act 1 Scene 2) Edgar is extremely confused after he hears that his father is furious with him from Edmund. He wants to know what’s going on because he can’t remember doing anything that offended Gloucester and thinks someone is setting him up.
“I’ll not endure it. His knights grow riotous, and himself upbraids us on every trifle” (Act 1 Scene 3) Lear only asked his daughters for a place to stay with his 100 knights, and Goneril still finds him annoying and complains that he and his knights are causing too much of a ruckus and she doesn’t want to handle them anymore.
“Dost thou know me, fellow?” (Act 1 Scene 4) Lear can’t recognize Kent because his disguise is really good. Kent promises him that he’ll be a loyal messenger and will always be at Lear’s service if he gives him a chance. Lear accepts.
“Ingratitude, thou marble-hearted fiend, more hideous when thou show’st thee in a child than the sea monster!” (Act 1 Scene 4) Lear is furious at Goneril for treating him so disrespectfully and telling him that she won’t offer him housing if he plans on having his 100 knights tag along. He compares her harshness to that of a sea monster and hopes that he will find better treatment at Regan’s residence (but he doesn’t!)
“Into her tomb convey sterility” (Act 1 Scene 4) Lear continues bashing Goneril for wanting to get rid of him/for treating him like trash. In this monologue he shoots nasty insults at her. Specifically, he hopes that she’ll become infertile, or that she’ll conceive an unbearable, awful child.
“By day and night he wrongs me” (Act 1 Scene 3) Goneril learns that her father was rude to Oswald, her steward. She claims that ever since her father has given her half of the kingdom all he has done is made life harder for her. In reality, she’s just being ungrateful. (Goneril to Oswald)
“That which ordinary men are fit for I am qualified in, and the best of me is diligence” (Act 1 Scene 4) After being banished from the kingdom for speaking up to Lear, Kent comes back disguised as worker. Here he is trying to appeal to Lear and show that he can offer Lear the best of services. (Kent disguised to Lear)
“My lady’s father” (Act 1 Scene 4) Oswald addresses Lear by calling him Goneril’s dad instead of calling him “my king” as a way of disrespecting him, but staying loyal and respectful to Goneril. This is really rude and Lear gets very pissed off by this as it shows Oswald is not showing Lear with the respect he deserves. (Oswald to Lear)
“There’s earnest of the service” (Act 1 Scene 4) After Oswald disrespects Lear, there is an exchange of rude words between the two. Kent gets involved and trips Oswald in order to gain Lear’s favor and show Oswald that he is below Kent. After Kent does this Lear gives him a purse (most likely filled with money) to show him that a reward is soon to come and to thank him. (Lear to Kent in disguise)
“Have more than thou showest, speak less than thou know eat. Lend less than thou owest, ride more than thou goest” (Act 1 Scene 4) This is an example of the sage advice that the Fool, who is supposed to be there for comic relief, gives to Lear throughout the play (Fool to Lear).
“Nothing can be made of nothing” (Act 1 Scene 4) This is the second time Lear says this but this time it is to the fool. Going back to one of the main themes, Lear is saying that without anything one cannot make anything. (Lear to Fool)******ADD TO THIS EXPLANATION
“All thy other titles thou hast given away” (Act 1 Scene 4). The fool calls Lear a fool to which Lear responds “are you calling me a fool?” And the fool responds with this line. Basically, the fool is saying that because Lear gave all of his land and everything away, the title of a “fool” is the only thing that remains of him. (Fool to Lear)
“I would fain learn to lie” (Act 1 Scene 4) Line 184 add notesFool to Lear
“Thou art nothing” (Act 1 Scene 4) The fool says this to Lear to further his criticism of Lear’s actions. Now that Lear has given everything away, he is literally nothing. (Fool to Lear)
“The hedge-sparrow fed the cuckoo so long that it had its head bit off by the young” (Act 1 Scene 4) The fool says this to Lear as a metaphor to the fact that Goneril has just threatened Lear to cut down his army. Goneril is the “cuckoo” (Fool to Lear about Goneril)
“Who is it that can tell me who I am?” (Act 1 Scene 4) Lear is shocked that Goneril has the audacity to boss him around. He is now speaking out and says that if Goneril speaks to me in this way then how could I be a king or even a father to her? He is questioning his identity as he is clearly nothing like he used to be ***the fool even later says that Lear is his own shadow now.
“Degenerate bastard, I’ll not trouble thee” (Act 1 Scene 4) Lear calls Goneril a bastard, which shows a parallel plot to the other story. He’s basically disowning her here and tells her that he’s leaving to go to Regan’s. (Lear to Goneril)
“How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child” (Act 1 Scene 4) After wishing for Goneril not to get pregnant he takes it back and wishes her to have an unthankful child because as Lear knows that is the worst thing one can have. (Lear to Goneril)
“Let me still take away the harms I fear, not fear still to be taken” (Act 1 Scene 4) Goneril line 350
“You are much more at task for want of wisdom than praised for harmful mildness” (Act 1 Scene 4) Goneril lets Albany know that the only reason he is here is to give advice, because clearly he is too weak to do the dirty work and settle the manly tasks. (Goneril to Albany)
“You see me here, you god, a poor old man as full of grief as age, wretched in both” (Act 2 Scene 4) He’s looking to the gods to give him the ability to be patient because he doesn’t want to cry out. His daughters are making him lose his dignity and he needs to keep himself from going crazy. (Lear to Regan and Cornwall).
“How far your eyes may pierce I cannot tell. Striving to better, oft we mar what’s well” (Act 1 Scene 5) Albany questions Goneril’s behavior and doesn’t know what’s going on. He wants to figure out her agenda because he knows that he’s missing some crucial information. (Albany to Goneril)