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King Lear Loyalty Quotes

How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Act.Scene.Line). Line numbers correspond to the Norton edition.

Quote #1

Good my lord,
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,
That lord whose hand must take my plight shall
Half my love with him, half my care and duty.
Sure, I shall never marry like my sisters,
To love my father all. (1.1.105-115)

We discuss this passage in "Family" but it's worth talking about here as well. When Lear demands his daughters profess their love to him, Goneril and Regan lay it on pretty thick—professing they love Lear "the most." Here, Cordelia points out that Goneril and Regan are being disloyal to their husbands because, as married women, Goneril and Regan owe much of their love and "duties" to their spouses.

Cordelia says she will "obey," "love" and "honour" her father (hmmm… sounds a bit like a wedding ceremony, don't you think?), but she's going to reserve "half" of her "love" and "duty" for her future husband. Cordelia's honesty sends Lear into a rage and he disowns her. (He also takes away the dowry he promised.) Why?

Quote #2

Reserve thy state,
And in thy best consideration check
This hideous rashness. Answer my life my
Thy youngest daughter does not love thee least,
Nor are those empty-hearted whose low sound
Reverb no hollowness. (1.1.167-173)

After Lear foolishly disowns Cordelia, Kent stands up and urges the king to "reverse" his decision to ban his only loving and loyal daughter. Even Kent can see that Goneril and Regan will betray their father—they're "empty-hearted" and their flattering words mean nothing.

Quote #3

If but as well I other accents borrow
That can my speech defuse, my good intent
May carry through itself to that full issue
For which I razed my likeness. Now, banished Kent,
If thou canst serve where thou dost stand
So may it come thy master, whom thou lov'st,
Shall find thee full of labors. (1.4.1-8)

Even after Lear banishes Kent, the man remains loyal by disguising himself as "Caius," in order to serve the king. Some literary critics see Kent as being an emblem of an old school style of service, whereas his counterpart, Oswald, seems to embody a newer model of service—that is, Oswald, like many of the play's young people, is motivated by self-interest rather than loyalty and puts his own needs and desires ahead of his master's.

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