King Lear Quotes

“When thou dost ask me blessing I’ll kneel down and ask of thee forgiveness” 5.3.10; Lear’s recognition of the error of his ways is vital to the reconciliation, because he has finally understood the depth and sincerity of Cordelia’s love for him.
“Why brand they us with base? With baseness, bastardy? Base, base?” 1.2.9; Edmund’s first soliloquy. Plosives emphasize his frustration at the rigid social structure that limits him.
“Here I stand your slave, A poor, infirm, weak and despised old man” 3.2.19; Inversion of order, displaying Lear’s fall. Could be seen as a moment of anagnorisis. Some critics argue Lear’s identity is used as a social construct as he loses his mind when he loses his status.
“When we are born we cry that we are come to this great stage of fools” 4.6.178; social corruption/mockery. Meta-theatrical. Lea implicitly reveals his awareness of playing the role of king and of his folly.
“The wheel has come full circle, I am here” 5.3.173; wheel of fortune. Punishment for Edmund’s sins. Some argue ‘KL’ is a demonstration of what happens when there is a catastrophic redistribution of power; questioning Jacobean structure.
“Take physic, pomp, Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel” 3.4.34; Lear feels he deserves to experience what homeless beggars have to live through, highlighting how he has developed from a self-absorbed monarch to a humble human being. Recognizing his failings as a king.
“Why I do trifle thus with his despair is done to cure it” 4.6.33; Edgar can be seen as manipulative, akining his deceit to his brother’s. However, he intends good to Gloucester, as he wishes to cure his depression as Edgar knows that G believes heavily in the gods of the play.
“evasion of whoremaster man, to lay his goatish disposition on the charge of a star” 1.2.126; Gloucester deceives himself as he blames the misgivings of the world on astrology, common for the Jacobean period. Animalistic imagery. Goat’s akin to the Devil for the christian audience.
“To take the basest and most poorest shape […] of Bedlam beggars” 2.2.178; Edgar goes down the chain of being, as a disguise that will protect himself and deceive others. Basest echoes Edmund. Bedlam a reference to the Bethlehem Hospital.
“I had rather lose the battle than that sister should loosen him and me” 5.1.18; Hyperbolic. Shows the true extent of Goneril’s wickedness, or possibly the potency of Edmund’s skill in tactical courtly romances.
“Let me, if not by birth, have lands by wit” 1.2.181; challenge the system, Edmund is smart.
“The gods are just and of our pleasant vices Make instruments to plague us” 5.3.169; Harsh belief that people get what they deserve in a cruel world. Mankind traps himself in his own misfortune. Suggests the gods are disruptive.
“As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods, they kill us for their sport” 4.1.38; Gloucester sees the gods as destructive children. Simile suggests + is bad? Dramatic irony in that G doesn’t know Edgar is close, as Poor Tom.
“Legitimate Edgar, I must have your land” 1.2.15; the modal auxiliary verb is augmented by the use of monosyllabic words to emphasize the true desire and determination of Edmund. Betrayal.
“Come, let’s away to prison; we two alone will sing like birds i’the cage” 5.3.9; In A1S1 Lear banished Cordelia, and now wants to spend the rest of his days with her-> ironic? Lear assumes that Cordelia would want this despite the anguish he caused her.
“Nothing will come of nothing. Speak again” 1.1.90; imperitive, threatening. Nothing arguably becomes a motif in the play.
“There she shook The holy water from her heavenly eyes” 4.3.30; emotive religious imagery depicts a romanticized portrayal of Cordelia, arguably undermining her agency. Either a Mary or an Eve.
“Dry up in her the organs of increase” 1.4.271; assumes that having children is the be-all-end-all for women (Mary I, tension of James).
“O sir, you are old: Nature in you stands on the very verge of her confine. You should be ruled” 2.2.335; a blunt statement on Lear, however considering how things have gone thus far, possibly some sympathy for Regan’s claim. The apostrophe augments the pity expressed, creating a patronizing tone.
“The younger rises when the old doth fall” 3.3.23; dramatizing a social issue where the elites were generally a group of old men, e.g Robert Cecil who took over from his father Sir William Cecil. Results in large group of young men bitter over the matter.
“who is it that can tell me who I am?””Lear’s shadow” 1.4.221; Lear is now insubstantial, a mere afterimage of the old Lear, demonstrating the effects of dementia on the sufferer.
“O let me not be mad, not mad, sweet heaven! I would not be mad” 1.5.43; the use of the apostrophe and the repetition of mad highlights the grief felt. The begging nature makes him seem weaker than previous scenes.
“My wits begin to turn. Come on, my boy. How dost my boy? Art cold?” 3.2.78; on the brink of insanity Lear begins to sympathize with the fool, and those beneath him in general.
“thou mad’st thy daughters thy mothers” 1.4.165; Lear has lost the respect of his once sycophantic daughters after they gained power. He now needs to be ‘ruled’.
“they told me I was everything; ’tis a lie” 4.6.104; Betrayal of Lear’s daughter’s. Cordelia being more honest with ‘nothing’.
“O, let him pass. He hates him that would upon the rack of this tough world stretch him out longer” 5.3.312; all of society is a torture house. Apostrophe shows pity and love from Kent?
“I am a fool, thou art nothing” 1.4.184; The fool is highlighting the deteriorating state of Lear, augmented by the motif phrase ‘nothing’.
“I am tied to the stake and I must stand the course” 3.7.53; Gloucester like a bear (sport in Jacobean period). Animalistic imagery. Burning stake?
“Now by Apollo, King, thou swear’st thy gods in vain” 1.1.162; Apollo was an archer known for having good eye-sight. Lear is totally morally blind.
“Strike flat the thick rotundity o’the world, Crack nature’s moulds, all germens spill at once” 3.2.7; nihilistic state of mind. Wants all creation to stop. Semen-> man’s fault, as no mother present?
“O, how this mother swells up toward my heart! Hysterica passio, down” 2.2.246; wandering womb. Lear doesn’t want these emotions. Toxic masculinity. Absence of a real mother, Lear has had to be both.
“And my poor fool is hanged […] never, never, never, never, never” 5.3.304; can be Cordelia or the Fool. Some may read it as the fool’s death, however possibly same actor. Repetition highlights the pain.
“I stumbled when I saw” 4.1.21; a paradox, as he sees more now that he is blind. G acknowledges his own sin and spiritual blindness.
“Dispose of them, of me, the walls is thins. Witness the world, that I create thee here my lord and master” 5.3.77; the apparent devotion or obsession of R to Edmund. Display of how skilled Edmund was in manipulation. Self-sexism.
“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; displays the hypocritical nature of society. all men sin, power does not exempt you.
“Art thou not ashamed to look upon this beard? O, Regan, will you take her by the hand?” 2.2.382; juxtaposition of emotion in the two questions. Apostrophe connotes pleading.
“That all the world shall- I will do such things- […] {storm and tempest}” 2.2.469; the fragmented syntax reflects Lear’s mind breaking down. Pathetic fallacy.