King Lear Quotes

“a third more opulent than your sisters” 1.1.85 The comparative “more” suggests how Lear loves Cordelia more than his other daughters.
“Nothing, my lord.” 1.1.87″Nothing will come of nothing. Speak again” 1.1.90 Nothing becomes a motif throughout the tragedy. Nothing, which is a passive word becomes active, which may suggest how ‘nothing’ is everything. Lear does not understand Cordelia’s words, and assumes that she is being ungrateful.
“Why have my sisters husbands, if they say they love you all?” 1.1.99 Cordelia uses logic to try and persuade her father to understand her love and recognize the false-hood of her sisters.
“be Kent unmannerly when Lear is mad” 1.1.147 Proleptic of Lear’s insanity. Arguably, Kent is unmannerly towards Oswald, Cornwall, and Regan later on, when Lear begins to lose his mind. Kent is loyal to Lear, but as with Cordelia, honesty results in his own banishment.
“Now by Apollo-“”Now by Apollo, King, Thou swear’st thy gods in vain” 1.1.161 Apollo is the god of good-sighted. As Kent says, Lear is trying in vain to gain clear sight, and is completely blinded to the truth of events and figures around him.
“In the lusty stealth of nature take more composition and fierce quality than doth within a dull stale tired bed” 1.2.11-13 Edmund’s first soliloquy. Arguing that bastards should be of greater value as they are bore of true passion, whilst legitimate children are bore out of duty. In the Jacobin times, many marriages among the higher classes were arranged.
“Legitimate Edgar, I must have your land” 1.2.15 The modal verb “must” and the mono-syllabic words emphasized the apparent need of Edmund to rise above his ascribed status.
“These late eclipses in the sun and moon portend no good to us” 1.2.103″evasion of whoremaster man, to lay his goatish disposition on the charge of a star” 1.2.127 Edmund us arguably progressive in his second soliloquy, as he argues against the popular Jacobean belief that occurrences in astrology will impact the events on earth.Goatish: goats were said to whisper lewd things into the ears of monks.
“Let me, if not by birth, have lands by wit” 1.2.181 Edmund is displaying his cunning and intelligence. He is displaying a more modern idea of meritocracy over the Jacobin birth right.
“the fool hath much pined away” 1.4.72 A mutual relationship between the fool and Cordelia is suggested by the knight. Stark contrast between the treatment of their honesty.
“[Strikes him]” 1.4.82 Lear’s emotions are materializing into physical violence. Possibly a sign of madness.
“Sirrah, I’ll teach thee a speech” 1.4.113 The fool’s use of sirrah suggests an inversion of order as Sirrah is used by those in authority to address inferiors.
“All thy other titles, thou hast given away; that thou wast born with” 1.4.142 The fool is wisely arguing that Lear has lost the title of both king and father.
“e’er since thou mad’st thy daughters thy mothers” 1.4.163 Creates the image of Lear as a child, and his daughters his mothers; they control his actions and scold his faults.
“I am a fool, thou art nothing” 1.4.184 The fool has reduced Lear to nothing; “nothing will come of nothing”
“all-liscensed fool” 1.4.191 The fool is allowed to be honest whilst Cordelia and Kent are banished and disowned.
“Who is it that can tell me who I am?” 1.4.221″Lear’s shadow” 1.4.237 The fool argues that Lear is nothing substantial, and possibly that Lear is fading. However, this is echoed by the fractured syntax of Lear’s self-questioning.
“Ingratitude, thou marble-hearted fiend” Lear personifies ingratitude, emphasizing the calamity with Goneril.
“O Lear, Lear, Lear!” 1.4.263 The apostrophe creates a pleading tone that echoes the fear of madness in Lear, that may already exist. The fragmented syntax in this section echoes this madness.
“”Into her womb convey sterility” 1.4.270 Implies that the worst thing for a woman is the inability to have children. However this is a zeitgesit insult.
“I am guiltless as I am ignorant” 1.4.265 This pretty much sums up Albany in the tragedy.
“O let me not be mad, not mad, sweet heaven! I would not be mad. Keep me in temper, I would not be mad” 1.5.43-45 The apostrophe and the repetition of mad echoes the true fear of insanity, and possibly echoes the current madness he is in. He uses the 1st person pronoun which reflects his loss of power, as there is no use of the royal ‘we’.
“[Cuts his arm]” 2.1.34 Displays how far Edmund will go to convince his father of Edgar’s treachery.
“[Enter GLOUCESTER, and servants, with torches] 2.1.37/38 Gloucester enters with torches to shed light on the event but is still blinded by Edmund’s lies, showing how blind he truly is.
” I never got him” 2.1.78 Here, Gloucester is saying that he never ‘begot’ him, which is the equivalent to disowning his fatherhood of Edgar.
“three-suited-hundred-pound” 2.2.15 James I apparently sold knighthoods for £100; Kent is suggesting that Oswald lacks integrity.
“heir of a mongrel bitch; one whom I will beat into clamorous whining” 2.2.21 A sexual insult. The bitch may be a reference to Goneril.
“Like rats oft bite the holy cords” 2.2.72 The holy cords is a ref to family bonds. Kent is akin to Cordelia with his honesty and his love for the king.
“I serve the king” 2.2.126 Kent is honest in his task, a task that holds the values of the previous, more traditional times.
“the basest and most poorest shape” 2.2.178 Edgar is going down the chain of being. Base is a ref to Edmund’s first soliloquy.
“Of Bedlam beggars[…] Poor Tom, that’s something yet: Edgar I nothing am” 2.2.185-192 Bedlam is a red to Bethlehem Hospital, an institute to hold the insane (zoo). He is now nothing, reflects Lear’s eventual descent into madness.
“Fathers that wear rags Do make their children blind, But fathers that bear bags shall see their children kind” 2.2.238-241 fathers who have balls will have good children as they will respect him.
“O, how this mother swells up toward my heart! Hysterica passio, down” 2.2.246-247 Hysteria was a female illness believed to be caused by a wandering womb. This, here lear is presented as a repressed mother; there is only one reference to his wife in the entire play.
“Art not ashamed to look upon this beard? O, Regan, will you take her by the hand?” Juxtaposition between his anger at g and his betrayal with r. beard=metonym.
“ten? Or five?””What need one?” 2.2.430-2.2.453 numerical determiners show the decline in king lear’s authority and mental state in the tragedy. what need one? suggests that lear is now nothing.
“That all the world shall- I will do such things- […] [Storm and Tempest]” 2.2.469-472 Lear’s fragmented syntax reflects his declining mental state, echoed by the pathetic fallacy of the storm.
“O fool, I shall go mad” 2.2.475 Lear has admitted. Shall= modal auxillery verb so it is definite.
“Strike flat the thick rotundity o’the world, Crack nature’s moulds, all germans spill at once” 3.2.7-8 A nihilistic state of mind. Lear wants to break the moulds of society. There is a bitter sexual undercurrent, feeding his misogyny as he wishes to destroy all ways to reproduce.
“Here I stand your slave, A poor, infirm, weak and despised old man” 3.2.19-20 Lear started this but is blaming others. Slave=inversion of order, he has fallen down the chain of being.
“I am a man more sinned against than sinning” 3.2.58-59 Lear is no hypocritical sinner, but if he is seen as still refusing to admit his own shortcomings, and failings to realize that the gods may be trying and punishing him as well as others, this remark will seem self-pitying.
“How dost my boy? Art cold?” 3.2.68 Lear talks to the fool as a son. There is a change from his totalitarian egotism as Lear shows compassion for others.
“No heretics burned but wenches’ suitors; when every case in law is right” 3.3.84 This depiction of a utopia may be seen to contrast a possibly corrupt Jacobean society.
“That which my father loses, no less than all. The younger rises when the old doth fall” 3.4.23-24 Inversion of order. Rhyming couplet. Ed rises when lear and Gloucester die at end.
“In such a night to shut me out? Pour on, I will endure. To shut me out?” 3.4.17 This fragmented syntax reflects Lear’s decent into madness.
” to have a thousand with red burning spits come hizzing in upon ’em!” 3.6.15 Em is decline of kingship. Ref to hell fire-> looking for external intervention
“Most learned justicer; […] thou sapient ” 3.6.21 Subversion of social order. They’ve shown great wisdom in the play. Marxist criticism available.
“Thou robbed man of justice” 3.6.36 Eg is betrayed and gains justice at the end. Proleptic
” when grief hath mates and bearing fellowship. How light and portable my pain seems now” Pain is easier when shared. Lear begins to really impact the sub plot.
“[Regan plucks his beard]” 3.7.34 Start of violence towards Glou. The beard represents the aged of society; an attack on it is arguably symbolic of a generational attack on the old order.
“I am tied to the stake and I must stand the course” 3.7.53 Glou is presented as being courageously loyal to Lear and to his cause. The stake is a ref to bear-baiting (a popular spectator sport in the Jacobean period).
“Where’s my son Edmund?”3.7.84 Dramatic irony
“let him smell his way to Dover” 3.7.92 Shows the cruel nature of Regan, and arguably adds to the bestial imagery used (stake).
“I stumbled when I saw” 4.1.20 Glou sees more now that he is blind. Glou acknowledges his own sin and spiritual blindness in words that echo a biblical theme (Isaiah 59.9-10 ‘we walke in the dark..’).
“As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods, they kill us for their sport” 4.1.38 Gods are like destructive children who kill flies. There is dramatic irony as he remains aware that he has been given his desire of meeting Edgar again. Still believes that the gods are responsible for the acts of men.
“‘Tis the time’s of plague when madmen lead the blind” 4.1.49 There was a plague in London in the year KL was first performed (1606). Lear is mad and leads Kent and Cordelia who are blind with loyalty (blind patriotism).
“that slaves your ordinance, that will not see because he does not feel, fell your power quickly. So distribution should undo excess and each man have enough” 4.1.71-74 Blind when no compassion-> Both L&Glou turn to a more socialist attitudes. An echo to Lear’s ‘poor naked wretches’ speech. This is arguably a moment of anagnorisis. Marxist undertones.
“I must change names at home and give distaff into my husband’s hands” 4.2.17 Albany has become the more feminine figure, with G taking the more instrumental role. A distaff is used for flax spinning.
“Tigers, not daughters, what have you performed?” 4.2.41 Bestial imagery towards G from Albany. Predators.
“Sunshine and rain at once, her smiles and tears […] as pearls from diamonds dropped” 4.3.18-22 To cry with one eye and laugh with the other was associated with dis-stimulation. The gentleman’s depiction of C idealizes her; she is seen to be a pieta.
“she heaved the name of father pantingly forth as if it pressed her heart” 4.3.26 changed from ” i cannot heave my heart into my mouth”.
“she shook the holy water from her heavenly eyes, and clamour mastered her” 4.3.31 Links to the idea that C is a jesus or a virgin mary figure.
“he that helps him take all my outward worth” 4.4.10 C is willing to give up everything she owns in order to save Lear.
“She gave strange oeillades and most speaking looks to noble Edmund” 4.5.27 G is giving amorous looks towards Ed; disloyal
“Why I do trifle thus with his despair is done to cure it” 4.6.33 Edgar’s game with his father has some elements of true deceit and cruelty however it is intended to help him, as it does.
“they told me I was everything ’tis a lie” 4.6.104 everything is an antonym of nothing.
“Down from the waist they are centaurs” 4.6.121 More bestial imagery. Sexual aware/active females were strongly discouraged during the Jacobean period due to the patriarchy.
“Why dost thou lash that *****? Strip thine own back, thou hotly lusts to use her in that kind for which thou whipp’st her” 4.6.156 Society is hypocritical; Marxists may argue that it is the upper classes who accuse the WC whilst they too commit crimes. Power should not exempt you.
“When we are born we cry that we are come to this great stage of fools” 4.6.178 meta-theatrical-> trope in Shakespeare. We are doomed to fail and suffer from the moment we are born.
“To be opposed against the warring winds?” 4.7.32 C has a sense of riotous anger. Also, an image of the pieta is presented in C during this speech. Some directors may choose to have C physically holding L in her arms.
“[she restrains him as he tries to kneel]” 4.4.58 Reflects Lear’s mocking act of presenting to kneel. A moment of anagnorisis, as Lear realizes he should be kneeling to C, as she truly loved him and he betrayed her.
“And so I am, I am, […] No cause, no cause” 4.7.70-75 The repetition to display the true happiness of C. An example of unconditional love, as she says L has no reason to be guilty, despite that he does.
“I had rather lose the battle than that sister Should loosen him and me” 5.1.18-19 This aside by G shows how far she is willing to go to obtain Edmund, with this hyperbolic statement showing how she would rather lose the battle (and thus lose her power) than have R separate her and Ed.
“I never shall endure her. Dear my lord, be not familiar with her” 5.1.15 The imperatives mixed with the modal auxiliary verb enhances the bossy, demanding tone of Reagan. Also, the fact is that the sisters blame each other, not Ed for their fighting-> misogyny?
“Both? One? Or neither?” 5.1.59 Numerical determiners used to devalue R&G, and they are reduced to objects of possession. It also displays Ed’s treachery.
“”Men must endure their going hence even as their coming hither” 5.2.9-10 We must accept death as we accept life, we must be ready to die. Eg can be seen to be preaching to his father as “endure” implies the necessity of suffering, and his assumption of a higher moral ground may leave some audience members uncomfortable due to his deceit towards Glou.
“Lear, Cordelia and soldiers, [they pass] over the stage and exeunt” This stage direction shows a transition in heroic qualities from Cordelia to Lear, and Lear is placed before her.
“When thou dost ask me blessing I’ll kneel down and ask of thee forgiveness” 5.3.10 Lear is recalling act 4 scene 7 where he does kneel down to Cordelia.
“No,no,no,no […] flow by the moon” 5.3.8-19 This speech can be seen as deeply ironic in relation to Lear’s banishment of Cordelia, as Cordelia has remained alone in existence for Lear. He seems to insulate himself with visions of magic and myth that protect him from the failings and suffering around him. These are the last words Lear speaks to Cordelia.
“He that parts us shall bring a brand from heaven, and fire us hence like foxes” 5.3.22-23 This may be a biblical allusion to Judges 15.4-5 where Samson punished the Philistines by tying firebrands to the tails of foxes. Arguably prolepsis to the death of Edmund, who’s fate may have been decided by Lear’s curse.
“I hold you but as a subject of war, Not as a brother” 5.3.61 Albany is denying Edmund the equality with nobility that he desires, by forcing him to remain as a subject.
“Dispose of them, of me, the walls is thine. Witness the world, that I create thee here my lord and master” 5.3.77 Regan surrenders herself and her wealth as if she were a castle being taken by storm. She overtly displays her intentions towards Edmund in front of Albany and Goneril.
“I her husband contradict your banns: If you will marry, make your love to me; My lady is bespoke” 5.3.88-90 Albany’s humor in this scene adds a new dimension to his character, as he sees the absurdity of the situation.
“If not, I’ll ne’er trust medicine” 5.3.97 Goneril’s aside, medicine is a cruel jest towards the poison she gave R, as a cure for her love-sickness.
“it is the privilege of mine honours, My oath and my profession” 5.3.127 It is Eg’s privilege due to his nobility and the oath he made as a knight.
“The gods are just and of our pleasant vices make instruments to plague us” 5.3.168-169 Edgar’s moralizing applies to all of the ‘bad’ guys, as all have been punished by death.
“Howl, howl, howl, howl! O, you are men of stones! […] she’s gone for ever. She’s dead as earth.” 5.3.255-258 AN extended cry of anguish, or as an imperitive instruction to all others to morn the death of C. They are ‘men of stones’ as they are unresponsive and still like statues in the face of C’s death.
“And my poor fool is hanged […]never, never, never,never, never.” 5.3.304 Fool may refer to C who has been hanged, as a term of endearment. But is may be a ref to the fool, who disappears at the end of 3.6. The double reference heightens the despair of this scene. Also, never is in BV and the repetition recalls the ‘nothing’ that echoes throughout.
“O, let him pass. He hates him that would upon the rack of this tough world stretch him out longer.” 5.3.312-314 Pleading apostrophe. Lear was tortured in life (Tudor= rack of torture). He was stretched thin, until madness forced him to death.
“Friends of my soul, you twain, Rule in this realm and the gored state sustain” 5.3.318-319 Albany plans to rule with Eg and Kent to restore peace to England.
“My master calls me, I must not say no” 5.3.321 Kent’s suicide, ultimate loyalty to his king. Christian versus pagan view of suicicde.
“Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say [..] we that are young shall never see so much, nor live so long” 5.3.324-325 People should speak the truth.