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King Lear Power Quotes

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

Quote #4

With my two daughters' dowers digest this third.
Let pride, which she calls plainness, marry her.
I do invest you jointly with my power,
Preeminence, and all the large effects
That troop with majesty. Ourself, by monthly course,
With reservation of an hundred knights
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,
Belovèd sons, be yours, which to confirm,
This coronet part between you. (1.1.144-155)

Hmm. If King Lear is so intent on retirement, why in the world does he need one "hundred knights" to follow him around? It seems that Lear wants to retain a lot of power and authority but doesn't want all the hassles and responsibility of being an active ruler.

Quote #5

[…] e'er since thou mad'st thy
daughters thy mothers. For when thou gav'st them
the rod, and put'st down thine own breeches, (1.4.176-178)

Lear's Fool (Lear's personal comedian) seems pretty smart when he points out that Lear's daughters became more like his "mother" when Lear gave up his power and his kingdom to them. The Fool notes that Lear might as well have pulled down his "breeches" (pants) and given his daughters a "rod" to spank him with. By basically giving his kingdom to his daughters, Lear has not only given up his adult authority, he has deprived himself of all power. We talk about this in "Family" too, so check it out if you want to think about how Lear's poor political choices resonate in his family relationships.

Quote #6

Doth any here know me? This is not Lear.
Doth Lear walk thus, speak thus? Where are his
Either his notion weakens, his discernings
Are lethargied—Ha! Waking? 'Tis not so.
Who is it that can tell me who I am?
Lear's shadow. (1.4.231-237)

King Lear can hardly believe his daughter's insolence after she insults him by complaining about his posse of a hundred rowdy knights. (Having enjoyed the power and authority of kingship for so long, Lear isn't used to being treated shabbily by his subjects or his children.) Here, an incredulous Lear asks, "Who is it that can tell me who I am?" This question suggests that Lear doesn't quite know how to define himself now that he's lost all the power that comes with active kingship. In other words, Lear's retirement results in a kind of identity crisis.

The Fool's response is equally interesting. We can read the Fool's answer ("Lear's shadow") in a couple of ways. On the one hand, it could mean that the Fool, who is thought of as Lear's shadow (he follows or shadows Lear around the countryside) is the person who can tell Lear who he is. The Fool, after all, is the only person who ever tells it like it is and he knows Lear pretty well. Alternatively, we can read the line thus: Lear is nothing but a shadow, which suggests that Lear is merely a shadow of his former self. In other words, the Fool is saying that Lear (whose status has changed since retirement) is nothing without his former power and title.

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