unigo_skin
© 2014 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
 

Intro

More sinned against than sinning

I'm King Lear. I'm an old-timer who's pretty naïve when it comes to who my children really are. I'm a bit gullible and trusting like that, but I've got a temper when I'm provoked. And you know what I think?

Let the great gods,
That keep this dreadful pother o'er our heads,
Find out their enemies now. Tremble, thou wretch,
That hast within thee undivulged crimes,
Unwhipp'd of justice: hide thee, thou bloody hand;
Thou perjured, and thou similar man of virtue
That art incestuous: caitiff, to pieces shake,
That under covert and convenient seeming
Hast practiced on man's life: close pent-up guilts,
Rive your concealing continents, and cry
These dreadful summoners grace. I am a man
More sinn'd against than sinning. (3.2.49-60)

Who Said It and Where

You might think King Lear is powerful, being a king and all. Well, think again, Shmoopers. You have been duped.

By the time we get to this quote, he's got no power and hardly any friends to speak of. He's literally on a heath in the middle of a thunderstorm yelling at the sky: "Blow winds and crack your cheeks! Rage, blow!" It's pretty bad. He doesn't even want to go inside where it's warm and cozy. He'd rather be pissed, cold, and alone.

How did he get there? It all started when he comes up with the brilliant idea that he can hand over the hard work of ruling the kingdom to his children and relax. He wants to enjoy the power of still being king without any of the responsibility. As it turns out, that's Lear's first mistake: separating power and responsibility.

His two eldest daughters are ready to run their own lives—and their own kingdoms. They resent Lear acting as if he is still in charge. He did promise to give up power, after all. Yet the King is shocked when his daughters assert their independence from him because he gave them everything they have. How rude.

At this point, a light bulb goes off in Lear's head. He realizes that his daughters, Goneril and Regan don't love him as much as they said they did. In fact, Goneril and Regan don't love him at all. What does Lear do in response? Why, he runs out into a storm and wanders around on the heath, of course. (Goneril and Regan go "Ha!" and lock the door behind him.)

So there he is on the heath, yelling at the winds and rain about life and all its misery. His personal, stand-up comedian, the Fool begs him to find shelter, but the King refuses; he would rather face the relentless elements than his ungrateful children. Ouch. Then his buddy Kent shows up and tells Lear he has to find shelter.

Lear keeps trying to drown out the thunder with his condemnation of the world's crimes. "I am a man more sinned against than sinning," Lear cries out. Finally, Kent manages to maneuver him towards a hovel that will provide some shelter against the rain. Phew.

Advertisement
ADVERTISEMENT
Advertisement
back to top