| Quote #1
Hear, nature, hear; dear goddess, hear!
This had got to be one of the most bizarre speeches in the play. Here, King Lear is enraged by his daughter's betrayal of him that he curses her with "sterility" (the inability to produce children). If, however, the gods decide she will have children, Lear says he hopes she experiences a painful labor and has a "thankless child" to make her miserable for the rest of her life. OK, Lear is clearly upset. But, why does he lash out at his daughter's fertility like this?
| Quote #2
I'll tell thee:
When Goneril reduces Lear's retinue of knights (thus, reducing any power Lear had left after he divided his kingdom), Lear accuses Goneril of "shaking [his] manhood." Without the kind of power and authority Lear once enjoyed as active king and family patriarch, he feels as though he's been stripped of his masculinity.
| Quote #3
No, no, my lord,
Goneril implies that her husband, Albany, is too mild-mannered when it comes to dealing with Lear. When she refers to Albany's "milky gentleness," she's basically implying he's a wimp for not being harder on Lear when the retired king challenged Goneril's authority. For Goneril, mildness and lack of killer instinct make one feminine. Of course, Goneril goes on to say she forgives her hubby for being a wimp, but she's really not happy about him being such a dummy (he lacks "wisdom").
Brain Snack: "Milky gentleness," as Goneril calls it, is associated with a woman's capacity to nurture children (i.e., breastfeed). In Shakespeare's play Macbeth, when Lady Macbeth accuses her husband of being a wimp (Macbeth's not hot about killing King Duncan and his wife isn't happy), Lady Macbeth accuses her husband of being "too full o' the milk of human kindness" (Macbeth, 1.5.1), which you can read all about in our guide to Macbeth module under the theme of "Gender."