King Lear Language and Communication Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Act.Scene.Line). Line numbers correspond to the Norton edition.
Tell me, my daughters,--
Since now we will divest us both of rule,
Interest of territory, cares of state,--
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. (1.1.2)
Now this is strange. According to an earlier conversation between Gloucester and Kent, King Lear has already decided how he'll divide his kingdom among his daughters. So, what's the point of Lear staging a love test to determine which woman will get the "largest bounty" (piece of land)? We might say there is no point – King Lear just wants his daughters to flatter him. Here, we see Lear isn't really interested in knowing who truly loves him most, he wants his daughters to express their feelings for him in a very public way.
Sir, I love you more than words can wield the matter;
Dearer than eye-sight, space, and liberty;
Beyond what can be valued, rich or rare;
No less than life, with grace, health, beauty, honour;
As much as child e'er loved, or father found;
A love that makes breath poor, and speech unable;
Beyond all manner of so much I love you. (1.1.8)
Goneril sure does lay it on thick, doesn't she? Even though she says her love for her father leaves her breathless and "unable" to speak, she still manages to find a bunch of empty, meaningless words to flatter him with.