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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 #7

I'll tell thee. To Goneril. Life and death! I am
That thou hast power to shake my manhood thus,
That these hot tears, which break from me perforce,
Should make thee worth them. Blasts and fogs upon
Th' untented woundings of a father's curse
Pierce every sense about thee! (1.4.311-318)

When Goneril reduces Lear's retinue of knights (so, reducing any power Lear had left after he divided his kingdom), Lear responds as though Goneril has emasculated him—he says his "manhood" has been shaken. For Lear, power and masculinity go hand and hand.

Quote #8

This man hath had good counsel. A hundred
'Tis politic and safe to let him keep
At point a hundred knights! Yes, that, on every
Each buzz, each fancy, each complaint, dislike,
He may enguard his dotage with their powers
And hold our lives in mercy.—Oswald, I say! (1.4.340-347)

When Goneril first confronts her father about the noisy and riotous knights he keeps with him, she claims the knights disrupt her household by treating her palace like a tavern or a brothel. Yet, here, when Lear is absent, Goneril admits to her husband (Albany) that she doesn't like Lear's knights because they protect him, providing Lear with way too much power. 

Goneril insists that by stripping Lear of all his power, her life and political position are much safer. Whereas Lear sees Goneril's objection to his knights as a matter of family disloyalty, Goneril sees it as a political and military matter.

Quote #9

Sir, I am too old to learn.
Call not your stocks for me. I serve the king,
On whose employment I was sent to you.
You shall do small respect, show too bold
Against the grace and person of my master,
Stocking his messenger. (2.2.138-144)

Because Kent is Lear's servant, when Cornwall locks Kent in the stocks, he's being incredibly disrespectful toward King Lear. As Gloucester later points out, "the king must take it ill, / That he, so slightly valued in his messenger [Kent], / Should have him thus restrained" (2.2.143-145.1).

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