“Though this knave came something saucily to the world before he was sent for, yet was his mother fair, there was good sport at his making, and the whoreson must be acknowledg’d.” Gloucester to KentDescribes how Edmund was conceived. Gloucester is not repentant for having a bastard son; this will come back to haunt him later.
“We have divided / In three our kingdom; and ’tis our fast intent / To shake all cares and business from our age.” Lear to Gloucester/KentOut of laziness, Lear splits kingdom in three. Whichever daughter flatters Lear the most will get the most opulent third. (Abraham Lincoln’s thoughts: “A nation divided cannot stand.”)
“What shall Cordelia speak? Love, / and be silent.” Cordelia to audienceCordelia’s first words connect her to the audience. She refuses to flatter her father.
“Nothing, my lord.” Cordelia to LearShe doesn’t want anything from Lear except fatherly love.
“Let it be so: thy truth then be thy dow’r!” Lear to CordeliaMocking her; since she won’t flatter him, he won’t give her anything to get married with.
“I lov’d her most, and thought to set my rest / On her kind nursery.” Lear to KentCordelia was his favorite, and he had planned to stay with Cordelia in his old age.
“Think’st thou that duty shall have dread to speak / When power to flattery bows?” Kent to LearCalling him out on his flattery competition. (duty = Kent, power = Lear)
“If, on the tenth day following, / Thy banish’d trunk be found in our dominions, / The moment is thy death.” Lear to KentBanishing Kent from the kingdom because he spoke out against Lear in front of the Royal Court.
“Will you, with those infirmities she owes, / Unfriended, new adopted to our hate, / Dow’r’d with our curse, and stranger’d with our oath, / Take her, or leave her?” Lear to BurgundyStabbing Cordelia in the back; impressing upon Burgundy that Cordelia is undesirable as a bride because he won’t give her anything.
“It is no vicious blot, murther, or foulness, / No unchaste action, or dishonored step, / That hath depriv’d me of your grace and favor, / But even for want of that for which I am richer— / 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.” Cordelia to LearShe didn’t commit a crime to lose Lear’s love, she just retained her virtue and integrity, and in so doing, she has lost Lear’s love.
“Better thou / Hadst not been born than not t’ have pleas’d me better.” Lear to CordeliaIn response to Cordelia saying that she did nothing wrong. This quote shows just how unhinged Lear is.
“She is herself a dowry.” King of France to LearThis guy recognizes the value of Cordelia’s virtue and so he accepts her as his bride without any money from Lear.
“Not all the dukes of wat’rish Burgundy / Can buy this unpriz’d precious maid of me.” King of France to BurgundyMocking Burgundy for not recognizing Cordelia’s true value, which is not in the form of money.
“I know you what you are.” Cordelia to Regan and GonerilCordelia is very intelligent and realizes that Goneril and Regan are conniving and will want to take over their father’s power. She has the spunk and the verve to say this in front of the entire court.
“Such unconstant starts are we like to have from him as this of Kent’s banishment.” Regan to GonerilForeshadowing the upsets in Lear’s kingdom / conspiring to control Lear in his retirement
“Thou, Nature, art my goddess, to thy law / My services are bound. / Wherefore should I / Stand in the plague of custom, and permit / The curiosity of nations to deprive me, / For that I am some twelve or fourteen moonshines / Lag of a brother?” Edmund (soliloquy)Being a child born out of wedlock, he is enraged that a cultural tradition is holding him back from getting his father’s power.
“Why brand they us / With base? with baseness? bastardy? base, base? / Who, in the lusty stealth of nature, take / More composition, and fierce quality, / Than doth within a dull, stale, tired bed / Go to th’ creating a whole tribe of fops, / Got ‘tween asleep and wake?” Edmund (soliloquy)Here Edmund is saying that since bastard children are born with fierce passion, they should be celebrated, even above legitimate children, because legitimate children are (literally) born from a sense of duty, rather than the passion that consumes lovers.
“I hope, for my brother’s justification, he wrote this but as an essay or taste of my virtue.” Edmund to GloucesterEdmund presents to Gloucester the letter that he forged in Edgar’s name, with a supposed (ridiculous) plot to murder their father and seize his lands and wealth.
“O villain, villain! his very opinion in the letter.” Gloucester to EdmundGloucester fails to see through this sham of Edmund’s, and so he completely believes that Edgar actually wrote this letter to Edmund.
“An admirable evasion of whoremaster man, to lay his goatish disposition on the charge of a star!” Edmund to audienceCriticizing Gloucester for blaming his fortune on the stars.Also, here Shakespeare mocks the human desire to lay blame elsewhere besides on oneself.
“Some villain hath done me wrong.””That’s my fear.” Edgar, EdmundEdmund now feigns innocence in order to gain Edgar’s trust, so that he can betray him later.
“Let me, if not by birth, have lands by wit.” Edgar to audienceAnnouncing his plans to dupe Gloucester and Edgar into allowing him to have the power, lands and wealth.
“Put on what weary negligence you please, / You and your fellows; I’d have it come to question. / If he distaste it, let him to my sister, / Whose mind and mine I know in that are one, / Not to be overrul’d. Idle old man, / That still would manage those authorities / That he hath given away!” Goneril to OswaldConspiring to take over Lear’s power. She wants the servants to dress as she says so that she can show Lear who’s boss, even now.
“Now, banish’d Kent, / If thou canst serve where thou dost stand condemn’d, / So may it come, thy master, whom thou lov’st, / Shall find thee full of labors.” Kent to audienceWorking up the courage not to be outspoken, and showing his devotion to Lear; he’ll disguise himself and come back to serve Lear.
“if thou follow him, thou must needs wear my coxcomb.” Fool to KentThe Fool is telling Kent that he’s foolish to follow Lear, because Lear doesn’t deserve it.
“thou hadst little wit in thy bald crown when thou gav’st thy golden one away.” Fool to LearThe Fool has license to criticize anyone, even the king, and so he does here. The “golden one” is Cordelia (she has blonde hair), and the Fool is calling Lear out on letting her go.
“I had rather be any kind o’ thing than a Fool, and yet I would not be thee” Fool to LearI don’t like being a fool very much, but being you would be worse.
“The hedge-sparrow fed the cuckoo so long, / That it had it head bit off by it young.” Fool to LearThe Fool points out that Regan and Goneril want to take over Lear’s power, just like the baby cuckoo bird eventually takes over its host’s nest.
“Yet have I left a daughter.” Lear to GonerilLear thinks he can still count on Goneril to be on his side. (Oh how wrong he is.)
“How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is / To have a thankless child!” Lear to Goneril/AlbanyLear is realizing that Goneril and Regan are completely ungrateful and is burned by it.
“Striving to better, oft we mar what’s well.” Albany to GonerilThis is the first sign that Albany wants to be reasonable about taking over Lear’s power.
“Thou shouldst not have been old till thou hadst been wise.” Fool to LearWhen you’re young, you can bounce back from foolishness. The only thing that can protect you in old age is wisdom. (Lear obviously missed this.)
“Have you heard of no likely wars toward, / ‘twixt the Dukes of Cornwall and Albany?” Curan to EdmundThis is a consequence of Lear dividing the kingdom: Cornwall and Albany are now fighting for complete control of the whole kingdom.
“Pardon me: / In cunning I must draw my sword upon you. / Draw, seem to defend yourself; now quit you well.— / Yield! Come before my father. Light ho, here!— / Fly, brother.” Edmund to EdgarSetting Edgar up.
“Look, sir, I bleed. . . . [Edgar] Fled this way, sir, when by no means he / could—Persuade me to the murther of you lordship.” Edmund to GloucesterEdmund’s MO (modus operandi, mode of operation) is to gain people’s trust, use that trust to his advantage, and then betray them.
“of my land, / Loyal and natural boy, I’ll work the means / To make thee capable.” Gloucester to EdmundSealing the deal: now that Gloucester thinks Edgar was trying to kill Edmund, Gloucester entrusts his lands and wealth to him rather than to Edgar, his legitimate son.
“For you, Edmund, / Whose virtue and obedience doth this instant / So much commend itself, you shall be ours. / Natures of such deep trust we shall much need; / You we first seize on.” Cornwall to EdmundIRONY!!! Edmund seems so virtuous because he supposedly foiled a plot to murder Gloucester, so now Cornwall is trusting him with some power.
“A knave, a rascal, an eater of broken meats; a base, proud, shallow, beggarly, three-suited, hundred-pound, filthy worsted-stocking knave; a lily-liver’d, action-taking, whoreson, glass-gazing, superserviceable, finical rogue; one-trunk-inheriting slave.” Kent to OswaldInsulting Oswald to put him in his place, because Oswald has been strutting about the castle indulging his own self-interests, while Kent has always been loyal to Lear.
“a stone-cutter or a painter could not have made him so ill, though they had been but two years o’ th’ trade.” Kent to CornwallStone-cutters and painters can make something beautiful even if they’re not that skilled, but tailors have to be skilled to produce a work of art, and so a tailor fashioned Oswald at his birth, because Oswald is an abhorrence.
“Fetch forth the stocks! / You stubborn ancient knave, you reverent braggart, / We’ll teach you.” Cornwall to KentCornwall wants to emphasize that Lear no longer has any power, so he puts his most loyal servant into the stocks.
“Sir, I am too old to learn. / Call not your stocks for me, I serve the King, / On whose employment I was sent to you.” Kent to CornwallKent tells Cornwall that he’s too old to be punished, he’s just serving the rightful king.
“My face I’ll grime with filth, / Blanket my loins, elf all my hairs in knots, / And with presented nakedness outface / The winds and persecutions of the sky. / The country gives me proof and president / Of Bedlam beggars, who, with roaring voices, / Strike in their numb’d and mortified arms / Pins, wooden pricks, nails, sprigs of rosemary; / And with this horrible object, from low farms, / Poor pelting villages, sheep-cotes, and mills, / Sometimes with lunatic bans, sometime with prayers, / Enforce their charity.” Edgar to audienceEdgar’s second soliloquy reveals his true biterness about Edmund and Gloucester.
“Winter’s not gone yet, if the wild geese fly that way.” Fool to LearThe worst is yet to come. (speaking about Goneril and Regan)
“I would have all well betwixt you.” Gloucester to LearPlaying the peacemaker.
“I cannot think my sister in the least / Would fail her obligation. If, sir, perchance / She have restrain’d the riots of your followers, / ‘Tis on such ground and to such wholesome end / As clears her from all blame.” Regan to LearPutting their conspiracy into action. Goneril has already rejected Lear, so Lear goes to Regan for charity, but Regan rejects him too.
“O, sir, you are old, / Nature in you stands on the very verge / Of his confine. You should be rul’d and led / By some discretion that discerns your state / Better than you yourself. Therefore I pray you / That to our sister you do make return. / Say you have wrong’d her.” Regan to LearAgain, Regan and Goneril are tag-teaming Lear to get his power from him.
“Age is unnecessary.” Lear to ReganRecognizing that he’s vulnerable in his old age.
“All’s not offense that indiscretion finds / And dotage terms so.” Goneril to Lear
“Return to her? And fifty men dismiss’d? / No, rather I abjure all roofs, and choose / To wage against the enmity o’ th’ air.” Lear to Goneril/ReganThis starts Regan and Goneril’s process of stripping Lear of all his knights.
“Return to her? / Persuade me rather to be slave and sumpter / To this detested groom.” Lear to Goneril/ReganGoneril and Regan are passing Lear back and forth in an attempt to get him to surrender his power.
“Thy fifty yet doth double five and twenty, / And thou art twice her love.” Lear to GonerilCounting on Goneril to be more hospitable than Regan, because she flattered him more.
“What need you five and twenty? ten? Or five? / To follow in a house where twice so many / Have a command to tend you?” Goneril to LearMore cutting down the numbers of the knights Lear gets to keep.
“What need one?” Regan to Lear/GonerilWhy does Lear even need one knight? He’ll survive.
“you unnatural hags, / I will have such revenges on you both / That all the world shall—I will do such things— / What they are yet I know not, but they shall be / The terrors of the earth!” Lear to Regan and GonerilCursing them for being ungrateful and turning him out.
“Shut up our doors, my lord, ’tis a wild night, / My Regan counsels well. Come out o’ th’ storm.” Cornwall to GloucesterTelling Gloucester to shut Lear out. Gloucester does not say no, for which he will suffer later.
“But, true it is, from France there comes a power / Into this scatter’d kingdom; who already, / Wise in our negligence, have secret feet / In some of our best ports, and are at point / To show their open banner.” Kent to GentlemanLetting the audience know that France is invading England. This means that Cordelia wants to overthrow Regan and Goneril to restore the power to its rightful owner, her father Lear.
“If you shall see Cordelia,– / As fear not but you shall,–show her this ring; / And she will tell you who your fellow is.” Kent to GentlemanThe Gentleman is going to Cordelia. She does not know that Kent came back (disguised as Caius), so giving her this ring would let her know that she has an ally behind enemy lines.
“Good nuncle, in, and ask thy daughters’ blessing: / here’s a night pities neither wise man nor fool.” Fool to LearThe Fool is begging Lear to beg Regan and Goneril to let him back in; the night is cold and terrible. Nature treats everyone the same, whether king or peasant.
“things that love night / Love not such nights as these; the wrathful skies / Gallow the very wanderers of the dark, / And make them keep their caves: since I was man, / Such sheets of fire, such bursts of horrid thunder, / Such groans of roaring wind and rain, I never / Remember to have heard.” Kent to LearAgain, nature treats all men the same.
“I am a man / More sinn’d against than sinning.” Lear to KentUltimate self-pity, which is the worst thing he can do at this point. He’s lamenting what others have done to him rather than taking a hit to his pride by taking responsibility for what he himself has done to cause his downfall.
“When priests are more in word than matter; / When brewers mar their malt with water; / When nobles are their tailors’ tutors; / No heretics burn’d, but wenches’ suitors; / When every case in law is right; / No squire in debt, nor no poor knight; / When slanders do not live in tongues; / Nor cutpurses come not to throngs; / When usurers tell their gold i’ the field; / And bawds and whores do churches build; / Then shall the realm of Albion / Come to great confusion: / Then comes the time, who lives to see’t, / That going shall be used with feet. / This prophecy Merlin shall make; for I live before his time.” Fool to LearProphecy! 2 halves: first describes the present as the future, and the second describes something that the Fool will never come to know.
“When I desire their leave that I might / pity him, they took from me the use of mine own / house; charged me, on pain of their perpetual / displeasure, neither to speak of him, entreat for / him, nor any way sustain him.” Gloucester to EdmundGloucester trusting Edmund with the knowledge that he is in favor of Lear and not Regan and Goneril. This shows how naive Gloucester is regarding Edmund and his ways.
“I have received a letter this night; ’tis dangerous to be / spoken; I have locked the letter in my closet: / these injuries the king now bears will be revenged / home; there’s part of a power already footed: we / must incline to the king. I will seek him, and / privily relieve him: go you and maintain talk with / the duke, that my charity be not of him perceived: / if he ask for me. I am ill, and gone to bed. / Though I die for it, as no less is threatened me, / the king my old master must be relieved.” Gloucester to EdmundHere Gloucester trusts Edmund further with the location of a letter that would make him a traitor in Goneril and Regan. Big mistake.
“This courtesy, forbid thee, shall the duke / Instantly know; and of that letter too: /This seems a fair deserving, and must draw me / That which my father loses; no less than all: / The younger rises when the old doth fall.” Edmund to audienceFollowing the MO: betraying his father’s trust. (twisted!)
“The body’s delicate: the tempest in my mind / Doth from my senses take all feeling else / Save what beats there. Filial ingratitude!” Lear to KentAgain, lamenting his situation, and also revealing that he’s going a little insane (“the tempest in my mind”).
“Hast thou given all to thy two daughters? / And art thou come to this?” Lear to EdgarShowing how incredibly wrapped up in himself Lear is. He’s asking Edgar if he’s in the exact same situation that he is himself, because self-centered people see their own situations as the worst thing that anyone could ever be in.
“Do poor Tom some / charity, whom the foul fiend vexes” Edgar to LearEdgar meets Lear disguised as Tom o’ Bedlam for the first time. He begs for some charity.
“What, have his daughters brought him to this pass? / Couldst thou save nothing? Didst thou give them all?” Lear to EdgarAgain, Lear is incredibly wrapped up in himself and shows this by asking if Edgar is in the same situation, which he considers to be the worst possible.
“He hath no daughters, sir.” Kent to LearOnce again, Kent is speaking out against Lear. He’s metaphorically slapping Lear in the face and saying “Snap out of it Lear! He doesn’t have daughters! He’s not in your exact situation!”
“Death, traitor! nothing could have subdued nature / To such a lowness but his unkind daughters. / Is it the fashion, that discarded fathers / Should have thus little mercy on their flesh? / Judicious punishment! ’twas this flesh begot / Those pelican daughters.” Lear to KentIn response to Kent’s metaphorical slap in the face, Lear calls his daughters bloodsuckers (baby pelicans were thought to drink their parents’ blood).
“wine loved I deeply, dice dearly: and in woman / out-paramoured the Turk: false of heart, light of / ear, bloody of hand; hog in sloth, fox in stealth, / wolf in greediness, dog in madness, lion in prey.” Edgar to LearTelling Lear the story of his past, in which he had many vices, such as uncountable women, fighting, laziness, greediness, etc.
“True or false, it hath made thee earl of / Gloucester. Seek out where thy father is, that he / may be ready for our apprehension.” Cornwall to EdmundWhether or not the letter is true (which is evidence that Gloucester is a traitor), it took Gloucester’s power away from him and gave it to you. Go get Gloucester so that we can punish him for his traitorous behavior.
“It shall be done; I will arraign them straight.” Lear to FoolSelf-pitying outlook; again, Lear is placing blame everywhere else besides on himself. (His pride wouldn’t be able to endure such a hit as taking responsibility for what he himself did wrong.)
“Good friend, I prithee, take him in thy arms; / I have o’erheard a plot of death upon him: / There is a litter ready; lay him in ‘t, / And drive towards Dover, friend, where thou shalt meet / Both welcome and protection.” Gloucester to KentGloucester tells Kent (disguised as Caius) to take Lear to Dover, where he can be safe while waiting for the power to come back to him.
“Leave him to my displeasure. Edmund, keep you our / sister company: the revenges we are bound to take / upon your traitorous father are not fit for your beholding.” Cornwall to EdmundIrony!! Cornwall thinks that because Edmund supposedly saved his father’s life, he should react to Gloucester’s punishment, when in reality it was Edmund who set Gloucester up in the first place and has now betrayed him.
“What mean your graces? Good my friends, consider / You are my guests: do me no foul play, friends.” Gloucester to Cornwall/Regan/GonerilReminding them that they’re still in his house and he doesn’t want any harm done to him.
“Hold your hand, my lord: / I have served you ever since I was a child; / But better service have I never done you / Than now to bid you hold.” First Servant to CornwallThe servant, with his dying breath, tells Cornwall to stop torturing Gloucester. This servant and the other two at the end of this scene illustrate a very radical idea implemented by Shakespeare: the servants were more noble than the nobles.
“Lest it see more, prevent it. Out, vile jelly! / Where is thy lustre now?” Cornwall to Gloucester(‘s second eye)Mocking Gloucester for his traitorous behavior.
“I have received a hurt: follow me, lady. / Turn out that eyeless villain; throw this slave / Upon the dunghill. Regan, I bleed apace: / Untimely comes this hurt: give me your arm.” Cornwall to ReganHe’s dying, which is good for her; now she can get with Edmund, the ultimate evil conspirator, with whom she’s been having an affair for a while.
“I have no way, and therefore want no eyes; / I stumbled when I saw.” Gloucester to Old ManAcknowledging how wrong he was in believing Edmund and rejecting Edgar; now he knows of Edmund’s treachery.
“As flies to wanton boys are we to th’ gods, / They kill us for their sport.” Gloucester to Old ManWe are the gods’ playthings; they do with us as they please. This echoes Lear’s earlier act of placing blame on someone else for his woes.
“‘Tis the time’s plague, when madmen lead the blind.” Gloucester to Old ManTalking about Edgar; saying boy, the times must be bad if we have blind men being led around by crazy people.
“There is a cliff, whose high and bending head / Looks fearfully in the confined deep. / Bring me but to the very brim of it, / And I’ll repair the misery thou dost bear / With something rich about me. From that place / I shall no leading need.” Gloucester to EdgarGloucester wants to commit suicide, so he tells Edgar to take him to a cliff where he can jump off.
“I told him of the army that was landed; / He smil’d at it. I told him you were coming; / His answer was, “The worse.” Of Gloucester’s treachery, / And of the loyal service of his son, / When I inform’d him, then he call’d me sot, / And told me I had turn’d the wrong side out. / What most he should dislike seems pleasant to him; / What like, offensive.” Oswald to GonerilTalking about Albany turning around and being seemingly on the side of Lear.
“I must change names at home, and give the distaff / Into my husband’s hands.” Goneril to EdmundSince my husband is acting so weird, it’s up to me to be the man in the house and ensure that I can keep my power.
“O Goneril, / You are not worth the dust which the rude wind / Blows in your face.” Albany to GonerilFinally realizing just how evil Goneril is, and calling her out on it.
“Wisdom and goodness to the vild seem vild!” Albany to GonerilGoneril, you have gone too far in your quest to gain ultimate power.
“Milk-liver’d man, / That bear’st a cheek for blows.” Goneril to AlbanyMocking Albany for being Christian and turning the other cheek (figuratively). (Divorce court’s not too far off.)
“Proper deformity shows not in the fiend / So horrid as in woman.” Albany to GonerilIt’s bad enough when men turn evil, but women are even worse.
“O my good lord, the Duke of Cornwall’s dead, / Slain by his servant, going to put out / The other eye of Gloucester.” Messenger to AlbanyAnnouncing the death of Cornwall, as well as Gloucester’s torture.
“One way I like this well, / But being widow, and my Gloucester with her, / May all the building in my fancy pluck / Upon my hateful life.” Goneril to audienceRegretting that Regan gets to be with Edmund (“my Gloucester”).
“Gloucester, I live / To thank thee for the love thou show’dst the King, / And to revenge thine eyes.” Albany to Messenger/himselfThis is a true sign that Albany really has turned around and become (somewhat) virtuous.
“Why the King of France is so suddenly gone back, know you no reason?” Kent to GentlemanThe King of France needed to get back to France so that the audience would still hold him in the highest regard and see him as honorable. This quote is Kent asking a gentleman why the king has done so.
“Something he left imperfect in the state, which since his coming forth is thought of, which imports to the kingdom so much fear and danger that his personal return was most requir’d and necessary.” Gentleman to KentThis is in response to Kent asking why the King of France left England. The King needed to return to France so that we would still see him as honorable.
“You have seen / Sunshine and rain at once; her smiles and tears / Were like a better way.” Gentleman to KentAbout Cordelia; her grief is tragic, but beautiful, because it’s so authentic.
“Sorrow would be a rarity most beloved, / If all could so become it.” Gentleman to KentIf everyone expressed sorrow like Cordelia did, people would love it.
“He that helps him take all my outward worth.” Cordelia to DoctorShe will give anything to anyone willing to help her and Lear.
“O dear father, / It is thy business that I go about.” Cordelia to herself (Messenger)Christ-like; father, I’m doing what you want me to.
“No blown ambition doth our arms incite, But love, dear love, and our ag’d father’s right.” Cordelia to MessengerWe will stop Goneril and Regan so that Lear can return to power. We’re not trying to start a war, we’re just trying to set things right.
“It was great ignorance, Gloucester’s eyes being out, / To let him live; where he arrives he moves / All hearts against us.” Regan to OswaldRealizing that Gloucester is now an emblem of their villainy, so it was a huge mistake to let him live and walk around to tell other people how evil we are.
“My lord is dead; Edmund and I have talk’d, / And more convenient is he for my hand / Than for your lady’s.” Regan to OswaldCornwall is now dead, so she’s staking a claim to Edmund.
“If you do chance to hear of that blind traitor, / Preferment falls on him that cuts him off.” Regan to OswaldKill Gloucester!
“Would I could meet him, madam! I should show / What party I do follow.” Oswald to ReganEager to do what he needs to indulge his self-interests. This shows cowardice from Oswald; it would take guts to fight a regular man, but since Gloucester’s blind (not to mention old), it’s not really courageous for him to fight him.
“You are now within a foot / Of th’ extreme verge.” Edgar to GloucesterEdgar pretends that he has taken Gloucester to the cliff that he talked about. (In reality, he faked it.)
“This world I do renounce, and in your sights / Shake patiently my great affliction off.” Gloucester to EdgarSaying goodbye before (attempting to) committing suicide.
“Ten masts at each make not the altitude / Which thou hast perpendicularly fell. / Thy life’s a miracle.” Edgar to GloucesterPretending that Gloucester fell and miraculously survived.
“Let copulation thrive; for Gloucester’s bastard son / Was kinder to his father than my daughters / Got ‘tween the lawful sheets. / To’t, luxury, pell-mell, for I lack soldiers.” Lear to Gloucester/EdgarLear is going a little bit insane.
“I would not take this from report; it is, / And my heart breaks at it.” Edgar to audienceIt breaks Edmund’s heart to see this reuniting of Gloucester and Lear.
“When we are born, we cry that we are come / To this great stage of fools.” Lear to GloucesterThe crying of a baby at birth is not taking a first breath but a lament for this “stage of fools” (the world).
“You ever-gentle gods, take my breath from me, / Let not my worser spirit tempt me again / To die before you please!” Gloucester to EdgarRecanting his self-pity from before.
“Slave, thou hast slain me. Villain, take my purse: / If ever thou wilt thrive, bury my body, / And give the letters which thou find’st about me / To Edmund Earl of Gloucester; seek him out / Upon the English party. O untimely death!” Oswald to EdgarAnnouncing his death, and telling Edgar to give a letter to Edmund. Edgar reads the letter and finds out that Edmund is the real traitor.
“if he return the conqueror; then am I the prisoner, and his bed my jail; from the loath’d warmth whereof deliver me, and supply the place for your labor.” Goneril, in her letter to EdmundThis letter is Goneril contacting Edmund about murdering Albany so that she can be with him. (ick.)
“Better I were distract, / So should my thoughts be sever’d from my griefs, / And woes by wrong imaginations lose / The knowledge of themselves.” Gloucester to EdgarGloucester realizes that he should not be pitying himself.
“O thou good Kent, how shall I live and work / To match thy goodness?” Cordelia to herselfCelebrating Kent’s enduring loyalty to her father.
“Mine enemy’s dog, / Though he had bit me, should have stood that night / Against my fire, and wast thou fain, poor father, / To hovel thee with swine and rogues forlorn / In short and musty straw?” Cordelia to Lear (who at this point is sleeping)Lamenting that he was thrown out and had to deal with the wilderness.
“You do me wrong to take me out o’ th’ grave: / Thou art a soul in bliss, but I am bound / Upon a wheel of fire, that mine own tears / Do scald like molten lead.” Lear to CordeliaExpressing his shame in making the wrong decision.
“You have some cause, they have not.” Lear to CordeliaA distraught Lear tells Cordelia that she has every right to be mad at him (or to do him wrong) because he turned her away.
“No cause, no cause.” Cordelia to LearCordelia’s complete forgiveness of Lear. Not only is she saying that he’s forgiven, she’s saying that from the very moment that he did her wrong, she had forgiven him. (again, Christ-like.)
“The arbiterment is like to be bloody.” Gentleman to KentThe reckoning of the opposing forces will probably involve bloodshed.
“But have you never found my brother’s way / To the forfended place?” Regan to EdmundRegan knows that Edmund has… ahem, had relations with Goneril, but now she’s calling him out on it.
“I had rather lose the battle than that sister / Should loosen him and me.” Goneril to audienceGoneril would rather lose the battle with France than have her sister come between her and Edmund.
“Wretched though I seem, / I can produce a champion that will prove / What is avouched there.” Edgar to AlbanyEdgar tells Albany that he can produce evidence of Edmund’s treachery.
“To both these sisters have I sworn my love; / Each jealous of the other, as the stung / Are of the adder.” Edmund to audienceEdmund has set one sister against the other; both are insecure and want to ensure their claim on him.
“Which of them shall I take? / Both? one? or neither? Neither can be enjoy’d / If both remain alive.” Edmund to audienceThis quote shows just how callous Edmund is in his quest to pursue his own self-interests.
“As for the mercy / Which he intends to Lear and to Cordelia, / The battle done, and they within our power, / Shall never see his pardon; for my state / Stands on me to defend, not to debate.” Edmund to audienceShowing his Macchiavellian side; he will have Lear and Cordelia killed so he can reign.
“King Lear hath lost, he and his daughter ta’en.” Edgar to GloucesterThe defeat of France has to take place so that the plot can move forward. Lear and Cordelia were taken as prisoners.
“Men must endure / Their going hence even as their coming hither, / Ripeness is all.” Edgar to GloucesterThis quote echoes Hamlet: “Readiness is all.” We must be ready.
“We are not the first / Who with best meaning have incurr’d the worst.” Cordelia to LearStating a truth: the good do not always prevail.
“I’ll kneel down / And ask of thee forgiveness. So we’ll live, / And pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh / At gilded butterflies.” Lear to CordeliaLear’s delusion of him and Cordelia going to live in a cave, away from everything, in bliss.
“Know thou this, that men / Are as the time is: to be tender-minded / Does not become a sword.” Edmund to CaptainMore Macchiavellian cruelty. Edmund is sending the Captain to go murder Cordelia and Lear.
“You have the captives / Who were the opposites of this day’s strife; / I do require them of you, so to use them / As we shall find their merits and our safety / May equally determine.” Albany to EdmundPutting Edmund in his place: Albany is the king, and Edmund is not.(This echoes Henry IV and Hodspur.)
“At this time / We sweat and bleed: the friend hath lost his friend, / And the best quarrels, in the heat, are curs’d / By those that feel their sharpness. / The question of Cordelia and her father / Requires a fitter place.” Edmund to AlbanyEdmund wants Lear and Cordelia out of the way, and he knows that that won’t happen if they’re in Albany’s custody, so he stalls so that the slave has the chance to kill Lear and Cordelia.
“Jesters do oft prove prophets.” Regan to GonerilChallenging her sister to fight.
“I create thee here / My lord and master.” Regan to EdmundClaiming Edmund for herself.
“Edmund, I arrest thee / On capital treason, and in thy attaint / This gilded serpent.” Albany to EdmundAlbany has seen Goneril’s letter and now knows what a traitor Edmund is.
“If none appear to prove upon thy person / Thy heinous, manifest, and many treasons, / There is my pledge. I’ll make it on thy heart.” Albany to EdmundIf no one else does, Albany will kill Edmund.
“Sick, O, sick!””If not, I’ll ne’er trust medicine.” Regan, GonerilRegan announcing her death; Goneril’s comment lets us know that she poisoned her own sister.
“Thou art a traitor; / False to thy gods, thy brother, and thy father, / Conspirant ‘gainst this high illustrious prince, / And from th’ extremest upward of thy head / To the descent and dust below thy foot, / A most toad-spotted traitor.” Edgar to EdmundCalling Edmund out on his betrayal. Edmund still doesn’t know that this is Edgar.
“Back do I toss these treasons to thy head.” Edmund to EdgarEdmund’s response to Edgar calling him out on being a lying traitor.
“This is practice, Gloucester. / By th’ law of war thou wast not bound to answer / An unknown opposite. Thou art not vanquish’d, / But cozen’d and beguil’d.” Goneril to EdmundGoneril is complaining because she thinks Edmund didn’t have a fair fight. (it doesn’t change the fact that Edmund will eventually bleed out.)
“Shut your mouth, dame, / Or with this paper shall I stopple it.” Albany to GonerilFinally standing up to Goneril in front of others.
“Say if I do, the laws are mine, not thine; / Who can arraign me for’t?” Albany to GonerilThis is the definition of tyranny. I make the rules, so who are you to tell me what to do?
“What you have charg’d me with, that have I done, / And more, much more, the time will bring it out.” Edmund to allMocking Lear and Cordelia. He knows his evil plan will be carried out to completion, so he’s not worried.
“His flaw’d heart / (Alack, too weak the conflict to support!) / ‘Twixt two extremes of passion, joy and grief, / Burst smilingly.” Edgar to allAnnouncing that Gloucester died of a broken heart.
“I was contracted to them both; all three / Now marry in an instant.” Edmund to allCommenting on the fact that now he, Goneril and Regan are all dying or dead.
“This judgment of the heavens, that makes us tremble, / Touches us not with pity.” Albany to GentlemanWe don’t pity Edmund, since he was a traitor.
“I pant for life. Some good I mean to do, / Despite of mine own nature.” Edmund to Albany (all)There is nobody left to betray, so Edmund betrays himself.
“Her voice was ever soft, / Gentle, and low, an excellent thing in woman. / I kill’d the slave that was a-hanging thee.” Lear to allLear laments the death of his favorite daughter, and also announces that he killed the slave who hanged Cordelia.
“We will resign, / During the life of this old majesty, / To him our absolute power.” Albany to allRelinquishing power over the kingdom to Lear (for about 45 seconds).
“Why should a dog, a horse, a rat, have life, / And thou no breath at all? Thou’lt come no more, / Never, never, never, never, never.” Lear to (the dead) CordeliaMourning the loss of his favorite daughter.
“Vex not his ghost. O, let him pass, he hates him / That would upon the rack of this tough world / Stretch him out longer.” Kent to allKent is saying just let Lear die, he’s had a hard enough life.
“Friends of my soul, you twain / Rule in this realm, and the gor’d state sustain.” Albany to Edgar and KentAlbany doesn’t want the responsibility of the kingdom, so he gives it to Edgar and Kent.
“I have a journey, sir, shortly to go: / My master calls me, I must not say no.” Kent to AlbanyKent does not want the power. He just wants to go off and die in peace.
“The oldest hath borne most; we that are young / Shall never see so much, nor live so long.” Edgar to allEdgar is saying that the people who didn’t die that day would never suffer so much as those who did die.