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Literary Devices in King Lear

Soliloquy: Soliloquies, where characters speak at length about their emotions and motivations while no other characters are present, allow the audience to glean a better understanding of character actions and inner turmoil. A variety of characters, including Lear, Edmund, and Edgar, all deliver soliloquies throughout the play, which create dramatic tension when the audience knows something the characters do not.

Literary Devices Examples in King Lear:

Act I - Scene I

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"unprized precious..."   (Act I - Scene I)

This is an oxymoron. France is saying that Cordelia is precious just because she is unprized, or unvalued. She is unprized because she is, paradoxically, too honest, and has even been disowned by her father. An oxymoron is a figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction.

"KING LEAR: To take 't again perforce! Monster ingratitude!..."   (Act I - Scene V)

Lear continues to dwell on his own thoughts while barely listening to the Fool, who is endeavoring to distract him. The dialogue between the two characters is an unusual mixture of comedy and pathos.

"cataracts ..."   (Act III - Scene II)

Shakespeare uses the term “cataracts” to mean the figurative floodgates of heaven, which are thought to hold back the rain. Notice that Lear speaks directly to these floodgates, stating: “You cataracts and hurricanoes.” This is an example of personification, or attributing human qualities to non-human things.

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