Act IV - Scene IV

The same. A tent.

[Enter, with drum and colors, Cordelia, Doctor, and Soldiers]

Alack, 'tis he: why, he was met even now
As mad as the vexed sea; singing aloud;
Crowned with rank fumiter and furrow-weeds,
With hardocks, hemlock, nettles, cuckoo-flowers,
Darnel, and all the idle weeds that grow(5)
In our sustaining corn. A century send forth;
Search every acre in the high-grown field,
And bring him to our eye.

[Exit an Officer]

What can man's wisdom
In the restoring his bereaved sense?(10)
He that helps him take all my outward worth.
There is means, madam:
Our foster-nurse of nature is repose,
The which he lacks; that to provoke in him,
Are many simples operative, whose power(15)
Will close the eye of anguish.
All blest secrets,
All you unpublished virtues of the earth,
Spring with my tears! be aidant and remediate
In the good man's distress! Seek, seek for him;(20)
Lest his ungoverned rage dissolve the life
That wants the means to lead it.

[Enter a Messenger]

News, madam: The British powers are marching hitherward.
'Tis known before; our preparation stands(25)
In expectation of them. O dear father,
It is thy business that I go about;
Therefore great France
My mourning and important tears hath pitied.
No blown ambition doth our arms incite,(30)
But love, dear love, and our aged father's right:
Soon may I hear and see him!



  1. Cordelia says that she would give all of her riches to the person who could cure her father of his madness. While her sisters are consumed by greed and the hunger for power, Cordelia would give all she has to help her father. This demonstrates Cordelia’s genuine and unconditional love for her father since she places his health over her own prosperity.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. Cordelia is not only describing what the crown on Lear’s head is composed of, but also she is telling the group where Lear can be found. Of these plants mentioned, many of them are weeds (fumiter, furrow-weeds, hardocks), several are poisonous (hemlock, nettles), and others are benign (darnel is a type of grass, for example, but the ancient Romans and Greeks used the cuckoo-flowers as a cure for mental illness). While making wreaths out of flowers is fairly innocent, it’s worth noting that Lear has made a wreath crown of plants that are largely poisonous and not commonly picked. This threat of the natural world on his head perhaps provides a visual indication of the chaos that has caused him to largely lose his wits.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  3. Shakespeare felt compelled to create a foreign invasion to come to Lear's assistance. The French were the obvious rescuers because Cordelia was married to the French king. But Shakespeare was cautious about handling the entire matter, as can be seen throughout the final two acts. His English audience would not be well disposed to the idea of a French army invading England. The French and English were rivals for centuries and had often fought on land and sea. Shakespeare has Cordelia explain here that the French forces have no "blown ambition," i.e., no grandiose plans for conquest or occupation, but are there specifically to restore Lear to his throne and then quickly return to France.

    — William Delaney