Act I - Scene I

King Lear's palace.

[Enter Kent, Gloucester, and Edmund]

KENT:
I thought the king had more affected the Duke of Albany than Cornwall.
GLOUCESTER:
It did always seem so to us: but now, in the division
of the kingdom, it appears not which of the dukes he values
most; for equalities are so weighed, that curiosity in neither(5)
can make choice of either's moiety.
KENT:
Is not this your son, my lord?
GLOUCESTER:
His breeding, sir, hath been at my charge: I have so often blushed to acknowledge him, that now I am brazed to it.(10)
KENT:
I cannot conceive you.
GLOUCESTER:
Sir, this young fellow's mother could: whereupon
she grew round-wombed, and had, indeed, sir, a son for her
cradle ere she had a husband for her bed. Do you smell a
fault?(15)
KENT:
I cannot wish the fault undone, the issue of it being so
proper.
GLOUCESTER:
But I have, sir, a son by order of law, some year elder
than this, who yet is no dearer in my account: though this
knave came something saucily into the world before he was(20)
sent for, yet was his mother fair; there was good sport at his
making, and the whoreson must be acknowledged. Do you
know this noble gentleman, Edmund?
EDMUND:
No, my lord.
GLOUCESTER:
My lord of Kent: remember him hereafter as my(25)
honorable friend.
EDMUND:
My services to your lordship.
KENT:
I must love you, and sue to know you better.
EDMUND:
Sir, I shall study deserving.
GLOUCESTER:
He hath been out nine years, and away he shall(30)
again. The king is coming.

[Enter King Lear, Cornwall, Albany, Goneril, Regan, Cordelia, and Attendants]

KING LEAR:
Attend the lords of France and Burgundy,
Gloucester.
GLOUCESTER:
I shall, my liege.

[Exeunt Gloucester and Edmund]

KING LEAR:
Meantime we shall express our darker purpose.(35)
Give me the map there. 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 on younger strengths, while we
Unburthened crawl toward death. Our son of Cornwall,(40)
And you, our no less loving son of Albany,
We have this hour a constant will to publish
Our daughters' several dowers, that future strife
May be prevented now. The princes, France and Burgundy,(45)
Great rivals in our youngest daughter's love,
Long in our court have made their amorous sojourn,
And here are to be answered. Tell me, my daughters,—
Since now we will divest us both of rule,
Interest of territory, cares of state,—(50)
Which of you shall we say doth love us most?
That we our largest bounty may extend
Where nature doth with merit challenge. Goneril,
Our eldest-born, speak first.
GONERIL:
Sir, I love you more than words can wield the matter; (55)
Dearer than eyesight, space, and liberty;
Beyond what can be valued, rich or rare;
No less than life, with grace, health, beauty, honor;
As much as child e'er loved, or father found;(60)
A love that makes breath poor, and speech unable;
Beyond all manner of so much I love you.
CORDELIA:
[aside] What shall Cordelia speak? Love, and be silent.

LEAR:
Of all these bounds, even from this line to this,(65)
With shadowy forests and with champains riched,
With plenteous rivers and wide-skirted meads,
We make thee lady: to thine and Albany's issue
Be this perpetual. What says our second daughter,
Our dearest Regan, wife to Cornwall? Speak.(70)
REGAN:
Sir, I am made
Of the self-same mettle that my sister is,
And prize me at her worth. In my true heart
I find she names my very deed of love;
Only she comes too short: that I profess(75)
Myself an enemy to all other joys,
Which the most precious square of sense possesses;
And find I am alone felicitate
In your dear highness' love.
CORDELIA:
[aside] Then poor Cordelia!(80)
And yet not so; since, I am sure, my love's
More richer than my tongue.

KING LEAR:
To thee and thine hereditary ever
Remain this ample third of our fair kingdom;
No less in space, validity, and pleasure,(85)
Than that conferred on Goneril. Now, our joy,
Although the last, not least; to whose young love
The vines of France and milk of Burgundy
Strive to be interest; what can you say to draw
A third more opulent than your sisters? Speak.(90)
CORDELIA:
Nothing, my lord.
KING LEAR:
Nothing!
CORDELIA:
Nothing.
KING LEAR:
Nothing will come of nothing: speak again.
CORDELIA:
Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave(95)
My heart into my mouth: I love your majesty
According to my bond; nor more nor less.
KING LEAR:
How, how, Cordelia! mend your speech a little,
Lest it may mar your fortunes.
CORDELIA:
Good my lord,(100)
You have begot me, bred me, loved me: I
Return those duties back as are right fit,
Obey you, love you, and most honor you.
Why have my sisters husbands, if they say
They love you all? Haply, when I shall wed,(105)
That lord whose hand must take my plight shall carry
Half my love with him, half my care and duty:
Sure, I shall never marry like my sisters,
To love my father all.
KING LEAR:
But goes thy heart with this?(110)
CORDELIA:
Ay, good my lord.
KING LEAR:
So young, and so untender?
CORDELIA:
So young, my lord, and true.
KING LEAR:
Let it be so; thy truth, then, be thy dower:
For, by the sacred radiance of the sun,(115)
The mysteries of Hecate, and the night;
By all the operation of the orbs
From whom we do exist, and cease to be;
Here I disclaim all my paternal care,
Propinquity and property of blood,(120)
And as a stranger to my heart and me
Hold thee, from this, for ever. The barbarous Scythian,
Or he that makes his generation messes
To gorge his appetite, shall to my bosom
Be as well neighbored, pitied, and relieved,(125)
As thou my sometime daughter.
KENT:
Good my liege,—
KING LEAR:
Peace, Kent!
Come not between the dragon and his wrath.
I loved her most, and thought to set my rest(130)
On her kind nursery. Hence, and avoid my sight!
So be my grave my peace, as here I give
Her father's heart from her! Call France; who stirs?
Call Burgundy, Cornwall and Albany,
With my two daughters' dowers digest this third:(135)
Let pride, which she calls plainness, marry her.
I do invest you jointly with my power,
Pre-eminence, and all the large effects
That troop with majesty. Ourself, by monthly course,
With reservation of an hundred knights,(140)
By you to be sustained, shall our abode
Make with you by due turns. Only we still retain
The name, and all the additions to a king;
The sway, revenue, execution of the rest,
Beloved sons, be yours: which to confirm,(145)
This coronet part betwixt you.
KENT:
Royal Lear,
Whom I have ever honored as my king,
Loved as my father, as my master followed,
As my great patron thought on in my prayers,—(150)
KING LEAR:
The bow is bent and drawn, make from the shaft.
KENT:
Let it fall rather, though the fork invade
The region of my heart: be Kent unmannerly,
When Lear is mad. What wilt thou do, old man?
Think'st thou that duty shall have dread to speak,(155)
When power to flattery bows? To plainness honor's bound,
When majesty stoops to folly. Reverse thy doom;
And, in thy best consideration, check
This hideous rashness: answer my life my judgment,
Thy youngest daughter does not love thee least;(160)
Nor are those empty-hearted whose low sound
Reverbs no hollowness.
KING LEAR:
Kent, on thy life, no more.
KENT:
My life I never held but as a pawn
To wage against thy enemies; nor fear to lose it,(165)
Thy safety being the motive.
KING LEAR:
Out of my sight!
KENT:
See better, Lear; and let me still remain
The true blank of thine eye.
KING LEAR:
Now, by Apollo,—(170)
KENT:
Now, by Apollo, king,
Thou swear'st thy gods in vain.
KING LEAR:
O, vassal! miscreant! [laying his hand on his sword]
ALBANY, CORNWALL:
Dear sir, forbear!
KENT:
Do!(175)
Kill thy physician, and the fee bestow
Upon thy foul disease. Revoke thy doom;
Or, whilst I can vent clamor from my throat,
I'll tell thee thou dost evil.
KING LEAR:
Hear me, recreant!(180)
On thine allegiance, hear me!
Since thou hast sought to make us break our vow,
Which we durst never yet, and with strained pride
To come between our sentence and our power,
Which nor our nature nor our place can bear,(185)
Our potency made good, take thy reward.
Five days we do allot thee, for provision
To shield thee from diseases of the world;
And on the sixth to turn thy hated back
Upon our kingdom: if, on the tenth day following,(190)
Thy banished trunk be found in our dominions,
The moment is thy death. Away! by Jupiter,
This shall not be revoked.
KENT:
Fare thee well, king: sith thus thou wilt appear,
Freedom lives hence, and banishment is here.(195)
[to Cordelia] The gods to their dear shelter take thee,maid,
That justly think'st, and hast most rightly said!
[to Regan and Goneril] And your large speeches may your deeds approve,(200)
That good effects may spring from words of love.
Thus Kent, O princes, bids you all adieu;
He'll shape his old course in a country new.

[Exit Kent. Flourish. Re-enter Gloucester, with France, Burgundy, and Attendants]

GLOUCESTER:
Here's France and Burgundy, my noble lord.
KING LEAR:
My lord of Burgundy.(205)
We first address towards you, who with this king
Hath rivalled for our daughter: what, in the least,
Will you require in present dower with her,
Or cease your quest of love?
BURGUNDY:
Most royal majesty,(210)
I crave no more than what your highness offered,
Nor will you tender less.
KING LEAR:
Right noble Burgundy,
When she was dear to us, we did hold her so;
But now her price is fall'n. Sir, there she stands:(215)
If aught within that little seeming substance,
Or all of it, with our displeasure pieced,
And nothing more, may fitly like your grace,
She's there, and she is yours.
BURGUNDY:
I know no answer.(220)
KING LEAR:
Will you, with those infirmities she owes,
Unfriended, new-adopted to our hate,
Dowered with our curse, and strangered with our oath,
Take her, or leave her?
BURGUNDY:
Pardon me, royal sir;(225)
Election makes not up on such conditions.
KING LEAR:
Then leave her, sir; for, by the power that made me,
I tell you all her wealth.
[to France] For you, great king,(230)
I would not from your love make such a stray,
To match you where I hate; therefore beseech you
To avert your liking a more worthier way
Than on a wretch whom nature is ashamed
Almost to acknowledge hers.(235)
FRANCE:
This is most strange,
That she, that even but now was your best object,
The argument of your praise, balm of your age,
Most best, most dearest, should in this trice of time
Commit a thing so monstrous, to dismantle(240)
So many folds of favor. Sure, her offense
Must be of such unnatural degree,
That monsters it, or your fore-vouched affection
Fall'n into taint: which to believe of her,
Must be a faith that reason without miracle(245)
Could never plant in me.
CORDELIA:
I yet beseech your majesty,—
If for I want that glib and oily art,
To speak and purpose not, since what I well intend,
I'll do't before I speak,—that you make known(250)
It is no vicious blot, murder, or foulness,
No unchaste action, or dishonored step,
That hath deprived 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(255)
As I am glad I have not, though not to have it
Hath lost me in your liking.
KING LEAR:
Better thou
Hadst not been born than not to have pleased me better.
FRANCE:
Is it but this,—a tardiness in nature(260)
Which often leaves the history unspoke
That it intends to do? My lord of Burgundy,
What say you to the lady? Love's not love
When it is mingled with regards that stand
Aloof from the entire point. Will you have her?(265)
She is herself a dowry.
BURGUNDY:
Royal Lear,
Give but that portion which yourself proposed,
And here I take Cordelia by the hand,
Duchess of Burgundy.(270)
KING LEAR:
Nothing: I have sworn; I am firm.
BURGUNDY:
I am sorry, then, you have so lost a father
That you must lose a husband.
CORDELIA:
Peace be with Burgundy!
Since that respects of fortune are his love,(275)
I shall not be his wife.
FRANCE:
Fairest Cordelia, that art most rich, being poor;
Most choice, forsaken; and most loved, despised!
Thee and thy virtues here seize upon:
Be it lawful I take up what's cast away.(280)
Gods, gods! 'tis strange that from their cold'st neglect
My love should kindle to inflamed respect.
Thy dowerless daughter, king, thrown to my chance,
Is queen of us, of ours, and our fair France
Not all the dukes of waterish Burgundy(285)
Can buy this unprized precious maid of me.
Bid them farewell, Cordelia, though unkind:
Thou losest here, a better where to find.
KING LEAR:
Thou hast her, France: let her be thine; for we
Have no such daughter, nor shall ever see(290)
That face of hers again. Therefore be gone
Without our grace, our love, our benison.
Come, noble Burgundy.

[Flourish. Exeunt all but King of France, Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia]

FRANCE:
Bid farewell to your sisters.
CORDELIA:
The jewels of our father, with washed eyes(295)
Cordelia leaves you: I know you what you are;
And like a sister am most loath to call
Your faults as they are named. Use well our father:
To your professed bosoms I commit him.
But yet, alas, stood I within his grace,(300)
I would prefer him to a better place.
So, farewell to you both.
REGAN:
Prescribe not us our duties.
GONERIL:
Let your study
Be to content your lord, who hath received you(305)
At fortune's alms. You have obedience scanted,
And well are worth the want that you have wanted.
CORDELIA:
Time shall unfold what plaited cunning hides:
Who covers faults, at last shame them derides.
Well may you prosper!(310)
FRANCE:
Come, my fair Cordelia.

[Exeunt King of France and Cordelia]

GONERIL:
Sister, it is not a little I have to say of what most nearly
appertains to us both. I think our father will hence tonight.
REGAN:
That's most certain, and with you; next month with us.
GONERIL:
You see how full of changes his age is; the observation(315)
we have made of it hath not been little: he always loved our
sister most; and with what poor judgment he hath now cast
her off appears too grossly.
REGAN:
'Tis the infirmity of his age: yet he
hath ever but slenderly known himself.(320)
GONERIL:
The best and soundest of his time hath been but rash;
then must we look to receive from his age, not alone the
imperfections of long-engraffed condition, but therewithal
the unruly waywardness that infirm and choleric years bring with them.(325)
REGAN:
Such unconstant starts are we like to have from him as
this of Kent's banishment.
GONERIL:
There is further compliment of leavetaking between
France and him. Pray you, let's hit together: if our father
carry authority with such dispositions as he bears, this last surrender of his will but offend us. (330)
REGAN:
We shall further think on 't.
GONERIL:
We must do something, and i' the heat.

[Exeunt]

Footnotes

  1. The adjective here is actually “plighted” and it refers to a bad condition or state. So, Cordelia is suggesting that the sisters’ cunning, or plans to gain power from their father, are not as subtle or crafty as they believe. The word “hides” relates to the theme of blindness and insight: the truth of the sisters’ plans will be uncovered and the faults in their characters will be revealed.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  2. In this context, “slenderly” means “slightly” or “barely.” Regan and Goneril are discussing their concerns about their father’s actions, and Regan’s comment illustrates that Lear has always lacked any amount of personal insight. Their conversation suggests that they will find ways to deny their father authority and power in order to increase their own. Note how Goneril says that they must “look to his age” to inform their actions because of the “unruly waywardness” that Lear’s old age has caused. This means that they’ll likely argue that Lear is not fit enough to rule or make decisions for himself.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  3. Even Lear’s daughters see that he has exhibited poor judgment in his treatment of Cordelia. However, note that they are less concerned with Cordelia’s fate and more interested in how their father’s actions have reaffirmed their belief in his instability—particularly how it will affect them and their interests. Like Kent, they saw the wrong of Lear’s actions, but unlike Kent, they plan to use it to their advantage, revealing their lust for power and foreshadowing conflict between the daughters and their father.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  4. While today we use “want” to express a desire for something, Cordelia is using the verb in a more archaic fashion. Similar to the expression “to be found wanting” (meaning "to lack something"), this verb here means that Cordelia lacks the ability to speak like her sisters. This statement indirectly accuses them of speaking without real feeling or purpose. While Cordelia sees the importance among words, meaning, and values, she also lacks an ability to protect herself from the manipulative behavior of others. In this case, she’s truthful and honest but is left without an inheritance due to Lear’s anger.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  5. Lear says this part to the King of France. Since he has stripped Cordelia of her dowry, Lear tells the King of France that he should withdraw his courtship of Cordelia in favor of someone "worthier," which is to say someone with more possessions and wealth. The King of France's response demonstrates how such worth is not how he values people, particularly one he loves.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  6. When the noun “stranger” is used as a verb, the desired effect is to make someone or something become a stranger. Since Lear is Cordelia’s father and guardian, this verb takes on the additional meaning of “disowned” to emphasize how Cordelia is not only now a stranger to Lear, but she has also been stripped of her dowry.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  7. This is an archaic spelling of the word "since." Another archaic usage is the second person singular, or "thou" that is used throughout. While today we use "you" as a singular and plural pronoun, historically the use of "thou" for a singular pronoun was common—parallel to tu and vous in French.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  8. Kent says these words to Cordelia, emphasizing his approval of her actions and his condemnation of Lear’s. Kent’s ability to “see” reason and understand Cordelia’s actions set him apart from Lear and Gloucester. His banishment represents Lear’s inability to see things as they really are.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  9. Lear’s accusing Kent a “recreant” means that he considers Kent “unfaithful” or a “traitor.” A recreant is someone who is unfaithful to a belief, and since Lear is the king and sovereign, it is expected that his subjects obey his will and follow his orders. Lear’s use of this word reinforces this image of Lear as someone who expects obedience from others.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  10. Kent’s comments introduce another theme to the play: vision and its association with insight. The language of King Lear is full of references to eyes and seeing. Blindness plays into this, with Lear being implored to see better to know that Cordelia meant him no harm with her lack of words. The inability of the characters to “see” is prevalent throughout the play, particularly with Lear and Gloucester.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  11. Lear, privately hurt and publicly rebuked, not only refuses to bestow a dower on Cordelia, he also publicly disowns her in front of everyone. Cordelia’s refusal to play into her father’s vanity despite her great love for him has cost her his land and favor.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  12. Lear has three daughters, and this statement is a clear indication that he values his youngest as much or possibly more than the other two. The private relationship between father and daughter, or daughters for that matter, becomes complicated by the politics of authority, power, and order, but here we see that Lear shows care for Cordelia.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  13. We have seen Cordelia’s asides that she does love Lear, but she has no desire to make it explicit in front of everyone. Her refusal undermines the public authority that Lear has because she refuses to flatter him like the others for false reasons. For her, the private love she has for him as a father is more important that the authority he wields as king.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  14. Lear is referring to the two lords Gloucester has brought to the room. Their mention here and earlier indicate that, unlike her sisters, Cordelia has not married and is being courted by the two men. France and Burgundy, a region of France, are known for their wines, cheese, and milk, which is why Lear chooses such a metaphor to refer to the lords.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  15. Lear’s “darker purpose” is to partition his land among his three daughters so that he can effectively retire from the throne and live in peace and comfort. We learn a few things here. First, Lear values his authority and order, but he is also prideful and egotistical because of the way he partitions his kingdom. Note that this public display of power establishes two themes: family relationships, and authority and order. Lear makes a public demand from his daughters and has the authority to make everyone watch, regardless of whether or not they agree with his choices.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  16. King Lear’s first words direct the Earl of Gloucester to see to two important figures. This is meant to demonstrate how Lear and Gloucester are at the height of their power and prestige at the beginning of the play. By establishing these positions early, Shakespeare provides a space for this status to change, creating a sense of tension and expectation as the play unfolds.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  17. Lear’s choice of words reveals an example of the royal “we” used by ruling monarchs to emphasize how they speak for the nation, rather than for themselves by using the pronouns “we,” “our,” and “ours.”

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  18. In addition to learning about Edmund's physical characteristics earlier, we can see here by his modest and adroit reply that he is also has polished manners, demonstrating that he knows how to be a gentleman and polished courtier to compensate for being Gloucester’s bastard son and therefore not entitled to land or a title of his own.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  19. The conversation between Gloucester and Kent provide adequate characterizations of both Earls, Kent in particular. He is characterized as a highly civilized and sensitive man, and, as we’ll see when he interacts with Lear, one who is not afraid to speak his mind.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  20. The Earl of Kent calls Gloucester’s son “proper,” a word that suggests that Edmund is good-looking, well-proportioned and carries himself appropriately as befits a member of high society.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  21. The Earl of Kent’s diplomatic and graceful answer to Gloucester’s question demonstrates his intelligence, wisdom, and tact. Note also how he calls Edmund “proper” in contrast to Gloucester’s asking if Kent smelled a fault, or an impropriety. While Kent does not deny that Gloucester was at fault, he makes a tactful choice to not censure Gloucester for having a child out of wedlock.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  22. Shakespeare has the Earl of Kent use the word “conceive” here to mean that he doesn’t quite follow what the Earl of Gloucester is saying. However, Gloucester uses Kent’s choice of words as an opportunity to use its other meaning: the ability for a woman to get pregnant. The exchange is likely meant to be humorous for Shakespeare’s audience, who would have appreciated the low-brow humor.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  23. In this context, the word “messes” refers to “meals” or “food.” Since Lear includes the words “his generation” (meaning here one’s own children) along with gorging an appetite, Lear is referring to cannibalism.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  24. An archaic term, “moiety” means a half, or a part or a portion of something. In this case, the Earls of Kent and Gloucester are discussing Lear’s plans to give up the throne and give it to his daughters.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  25. In all contexts, the adjective “barbarous” has negative connotations. Its meaning ranges from uncivilized to lacking culture to being mercilessly harsh or cruel. Here, Lear emphasizes how he feels about Cordelia by stating that she is the same to him as any the barbarous Scythian.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  26. The French word adieu means “farewell.” However, due to the long history between the English and the French, many French words have been appropriated into the English language and are commonly used even to this day. In Shakespeare’s time, the ruling classes had stronger ties with the French than the lower classes, and so the prevalence of French words in aristocratic speech was much more common.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  27. In this context, an “orb” is a planet. King Lear is swearing by the sun, moon, and all planets that he disowns Cordelia.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  28. A “miscreant” is someone who is villainous or depraved. King Lear automatically calls his most trusted advisor a miscreant for trying to defend Cordelia.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  29. When King Lear tells Cordelia to “mend [her] speech,” Shakespeare complicates the theme of family relationships in that while Cordelia’s words signal her devotion to her father, he reads them as a rejection. King Lear feels betrayed by his daughter’s words because she refuses to express her love publicly in the way that he asks, undermining his authority as king and hurting him as her father.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  30. To “mar” means to spoil or ruin. King Lear is suggesting that he is unsatisfied with Cordelia’s reply, and that she should amend it so that she does not harm her chances of receiving a dowry.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  31. A “liege” is a sovereign to whom allegiance is due—in this case, King Lear. The phrase “my liege” has a connotation of loyalty and respect when addressing the ruler, similar to the phrase “my lord.”

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  32. Jupiter is the supreme god of the sky in Roman mythology, the equivalent of Zeus in Greek mythology. As Jupiter is the supreme authority of law and order, often referred to as, “shining father,” King Lear is asking the ruler of the heavens to help restore “order.” This is ironic as it is ultimately King Lear’s own absurdity and blindness that are causing disorder.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  33. “Inflamed” means glowing or ardent. Cordelia’s suitors might have been inclined to run off now that King Lear has denied her dowry, but the King of France states that he loves Cordelia even more now that she is “dowerless.” The King of France respects Cordelia for her genuine nature, emphasizing his honorable values.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  34. Hecate is the greek goddess of witchcraft and the moon. Throughout the play, King Lear will refer to various gods and goddesses as a way to appeal to divine justice and a sense of natural order to make sense of events.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  35. The term “durst” is the archaic form of the verb “dare.” King Lear is saying that he has not been so bold as to break any vow yet.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  36. A “dower,” or dowry, is the estate that a wife brings to her husband. King Lear will divide his estate into three parts and announce each of his daughters’ dowries depending upon who loves him most.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  37. “Champains riched” means rich and open countryside. King Lear gives Goneril lands that are rich and beautiful for her declaration of filial love.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  38. “Brazed” means hardened or impervious, usually in regard to feelings of shame or embarrassment. The Earl of Gloucester is essentially stating that he has had to acknowledge Edmund as his illegitimate son so many times that he no longer feels embarrassed by admitting it.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  39. A “benison” is a spoken blessing or benediction. Here, King Lear refuses to give his blessing for Cordelia’s marriage to the King of France.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  40. The greek god Apollo is associated with knowledge and sight. King Lear’s invocation of Apollo is ironic in that he is suggesting that the Earl of Kent is being unreasonable in assuming Cordelia’s honesty. Ironically, King Lear’s invocation actually illustrates his own refusal to see reason.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  41. Lear warns Cordelia that she will receive nothing from him if she doesn't profess her love. Cordelia loves Lear the most, but cannot find the words to express it. Her sisters, Goneril and Regan, deceive their father with flattery. The phrase "nothing will come of nothing" was a credo accepted by Christians during the Middle Ages. Of course, an important (Christian) exception is that God created the world from nothing.

    — Sarah St. Albin, Owl Eyes Staff
  42. King Lear must be a senile old fool to take such hyperbole at face value. Yet Goneril knows he will believe her because she knows her father well. She is also motivated by her strong desire to benefit as much as possible from this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Lear has said that he will "extend his largest bounty" to the daughter who loves him the most. 

    — William Delaney
  43. These words are addressed to Goneril and Regan. Kent must realizes that their "large speeches" expressing their overwhelming love for their father were grossly exaggerated, but he doesn't know how they will actually behave in the future. 

    — William Delaney
  44. This is a subtle metaphor. Kent is using the image of a wine barrel. If someone taps it and it doesn't "reverb" (or reverberate, or produce, or echo, or send forth) a hollow sound, it is probably because the barrel is nearly full and not nearly empty. Characteristically of Shakespeare, it is a common, homely image. His great genius is nowhere more conspicuous than in his inexhaustible flow of similes and metaphors. 

    — William Delaney
  45. There are signs even in this opening scene that Lear is already starting to go mad. His behavior towards Cordelia and Kent, as well as his giving away his entire kingdom, are not signs of a healthy mind. His words and actions in Act 1, scene i, foreshadow what is soon to happen to him.

    — William Delaney
  46. Lear reveals himself as a thoroughly selfish, self-centered old man. He has been spoiled as a child and served with reverence and unquestioning obedience as a king. He expects to have everything his own way. He expected Cordelia to provide loving care (kind nursery), in his old age. He didn't consult her in the matter at all; he just expected that she, like everybody else, would do exactly what he wanted. In fact, this may be the first time in his life that anyone has opposed his omnipotent regal will. It will not be the last time, by any means. It is just the beginning.

    — William Delaney
  47. Lear is staring at poor, broken-hearted Cordelia as he disowns her by calling her his "sometime" or former daughter. When Kent says, "Good my liege,--" Lear does not look at him but continues to stare at Cordelia through narrowed eyelids as he says, "Peace, Kent! Come not between the dragon and his wrath." This suggests that Lear remains focused on his daughter while ostensibly talking to Kent. What he says to Kent is really intended for Cordelia's ears. In effect Lear is saying, "I loved you most, and thought to set my rest On your kind nursery." And when he says, "Hence, and avoid my sight!" it is obvious that he has really been speaking to Cordelia up to this point. He doesn't have to look at Kent and then look back at his daughter; he is looking at her the whole time until he says, "Call France; who stirs?" Lear could actually be very frightening. He has a bad temper combined with absolute power. It is a terrible thing when we address hateful words to someone we love.

    — William Delaney
  48. 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.

    — William Delaney
  49. In this scene Lear displays his violent temper by disowning his daughter Cordelia and banishing his most loyal friend and servant Kent. Shakespeare felt it was necessary to show that Lear had an ungovernable temper in order to make it credible that he would disown his other two daughters and elect to live out in the open countryside rather than submit to their demands that he live with them but give up his hundred knights and presumably his Fool. Lear could be living in comfort in a private suite with all his needs taken care of by Goneril and Regan. They would be very glad to provide for him, because it looks very bad for them to have received his entire kingdom and allow him to be suffering from starvation and exposure. Lear leaves impulsively and refuses to communicate with them. Throughout the play he keeps reminding the audience of his terrible outrage in order to demonstrate that he could not bring himself to go back and offer his daughters some sort of compromise. 

    — William Delaney
  50. Lear knows that all these words are a prelude to Kent's saying something he knows the King won't like. When Lear says, "The bow is bent and drawn, make from the shaft," it is a metaphor. He is saying, in effect, "All right, now shoot the arrow you have been drawing back and pointing at me."

    — William Delaney
  51. Gloucester already knows what King Lear is going to announce to the assembly. This indicates that Gloucester is a very important person in the kingdom and one who is close to the King.

    — William Delaney
  52. Does this mean that Gloucester is not entirely sure that he is the father of Edmund but has accepted the responsibility for supporting and educating him? We do not know what kind of girl the mother was, but it would not be the first time that the lover with the deep pockets was selected as the father of an unborn child by a woman who couldn't really be sure. We wonder, too, whether Gloucester has kept Edmund's existence hushed up until this very moment. Gloucester does not seem to be planning to introduce Edmund to Kent until Kent forces the issue by asking, "Is not this your son, my lord?" Kent senses the young man's embarrassment and shows his consideration by telling him: "I must love you, and sue to know you better."

    — William Delaney
  53. Gloucester is bragging about what a lusty fellow he used to be when he was about a quarter-century younger. He pretends to be confessing a sin while really being proud of himself for having a beautiful mistress and being able to make amends by raising their illegitimate son to be an educated and refined gentleman. We cannot tell how Edmund feels while listening to this, but we will find out later on when he is alone in Act 1, scene ii and reveals himself in the soliloquy beginning with, "Thou, nature. art my goddess." This is quite a contrast to his behavior in Act 1, scene i.

    — William Delaney
  54. This of course is a play on words. Kent cannot conceive what Gloucester means by saying he has blushed to acknowledge Edmund as his son, although Kent is undoubtedly telling a white lie because he understands immediately that Edmund must be an illegitimate son. Gloucester replies that Edmund's mother conceived Edmund in the sense of becoming pregnant with him. Gloucester is both proud and ashamed of himself, which is why he is joking about the subject. He is proud of the fact that he was capable of siring such a fine-looking youth as Edmund but ashamed of the fact that he was having an illicit affair with an unmarried woman while he himself was probably already married. All of this joking is intended to convey information to the audience. In addition to telling Kent that Edmund is his bastard son, Gloucester tells him (although Kent should already know) that he has another son who is legitimate, and therefore undoubtedly heir to his father's title and property. Gloucester also introduces Kent here by name for the first time, which is for the benefit of the audience. Gloucester has yet to be introduced to the audience by name. King Lear will take care of that when he orders: "Attend the lords of France and Burgundy, Gloucester." Gloucester should not have to be told. The order to attend France and Burgundy is solely intended to inform the audience of Gloucester's name. There are a lot of characters to be introduced to the audience in this first scene. Lear's three daughters, Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia, have yet to be introduced, and so have the King of France and the Duke of Burgundy.

    — William Delaney
  55. These are ominous words. By investing his daughters and their husbands with his power, Lear is divesting himself of it. Without his power he is nothing, as he will soon discover. 

    — William Delaney
  56. Lear is referring to cannibals who eat their own children. The word "messes" means "meals." No doubt this sort of thing has happened fairly often in prehistoric times among nomadic people facing starvation. 

    — William Delaney
  57. Edmund, Gloucester's illegitimate son, has been standing there but has not been introduced to Kent. Evidently his father had no intention of introducing him to people at court because he was ashamed of him and perhaps because he was afraid that the others would not want to meet him. Kent senses the awkwardness of the situation and probably feels sorry for Edmund. Kent has to ask to be introduced, and, characteristically he treats Edmund with courtesy.
    It is a social achievement for Edmund to be introduced to one of the most important men in the kingdom. The exchange also serves to identify three characters to the audience: Gloucester, Kent, and Edmund.

    — William Delaney
  58. This seems to mean that Edmund has been boarded out in some foreign country, likely because he is an embarrassment to his father. The fact that he has been away for nine years explains why it is necessary for Gloucester to introduce him to his good friend Kent at this time. Kent would have already known Edmund otherwise. Wherever Edmund has been "out" to, he must have been getting some education and instruction in courtly manners.

    — William Delaney
  59. Lear thinks he can buy love. He is taking sadistic pleasure in making his daughters compete for his lands by forcing them to declare their love in front of a big assemblage. Cordelia must sense that this is humiliating and degrading. She bluntly refuses to participate in such a flattery contest. There is an element of psychological truth symbolized by this contest. When a man has several daughters, the girls often compete with each other in trying to win their father's affection and attention--bringing him his slippers, listening to his stories, laughing at his jokes. Lear is probably used to having Goneril and Regan fawning and fighting over him as growing girls. Cordelia may not have competed as much or as successfully because she was so much younger and easily upstaged by her more cunning and aggressive older sisters. Cordelia is like Cinderella vis a vis the two older sisters in the fairy tale.

    — William Delaney
  60. Shakespeare's plays are full of implicit stage directions contained in the dialogue. Obviously, Lear is ordering an attendant to bring him a map and spread it out in front of him. This would suggest that Lear is seated at a big table throughout this part the scene. No doubt everyone else is standing in the royal presence.

    — William Delaney
  61. King Lear just wants lip service from Cordelia. He doesn't even understand what true love is. This is because, as he realizes later, he has been fed nothing but lies all his life by self-seeking flatterers. When he tells Cordelia that nothing can come of nothing he does not realize how accurately he is predicting his own disillusionment with Goneril and Regan.

    — William Delaney
  62. This conversation between Goneril and Regan is intended to establish that the two sisters see eye to eye on their father's character and the problems he is likely to create when he and his hundred knights become their guests on alternate months. Shakespeare wanted to dramatize a single bitter argument between Lear and one of the sisters and avoid having to go over the same accusations, threats, complaints, etc., with the other sister.

    — William Delaney
  63. Gloucester's "fault" was augmented by the fact that he was married and had a newborn child when he conceived Edmund in an adulterous liaison. 

    — William Delaney
  64. Both Regan and Goneril understand their father better than he understands himself. He was born a prince and then became a king. He has an inflated opinion of himself, which includes believing that everybody must love him because he is such an admirable man. The play is largely about how Lear finds out the truth about himself and about humanity in general. He was always flattered outrageously because of his wealth and power. Then when he gave everything away he quickly learned the truth. He could hardly be blamed for the fact that he has "but slenderly known himself," since he grew up in such an artificial hothouse environment. 

    — William Delaney