king lear



  • If only to go warm were gorgeous
  • why, nature needs not what thou gorgeous't wear'st, which scarcely keeps thee warm
  • lear removing garments: 'off off! you lendings
  • Edgar warning against vanity: set not thy sweet heart on proud array
  • clothing and corruption, Edgar creating a history for Tom: three suits to hus back, six shirts to his body

references to clothing are linked to appearance and reality

outward appearences are often deceptive - virtuous characters assume diguises and continue to do good in their lowly roles. Kent, Edgar and the fool are all humbly dressed, but in spite of their inferior status (signified by clothing) they are frequently the symbol of hope, charity and justice

As Lear loses his rank and power his clothes becom more torn untill he takes them off and looks like a beggar. His clothes are proof of his folly and inappropriate - he no longer has any power, and he begins to look beyond appearences . As he rids himself of his clothes he begins to gain wisdom again

1 of 9


  • Lear- 'Wolfish visage' (in refference to Goneril) 
  • Lear- 'How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless child!' 
  • Gloucester- 'Rash boarish fangs' (to Regan)
  • Fool- 'The hedge-sprrow fed the cuckoo so long, that it's had it head bitten off by the young.' a hedge sparow emphasises Lears vulnerability
  • Lear- 'Come not between the dragon and his wrath.' 
  • Lear- 'Judicious punishment! 'twas this flesh begot those pelican daughters.' pelican daughters - want to see their father bleed
  • Lear recognises that Edgar- 'a bare forked animal'. His identification with Poor Tom suggests Lears helplessness - how can this animal compe with the powerfull preditors of Goneril and Regan
  • Edmund- 'Each jealous of the other as the stung is of the Adder.'
  • lear, picturing life in prisn: 'sing like birds in the cage. this is the first attractive animal image. song birds are passive and tame - hints that the visions of happiness are deluded

reccuring reference of savage animals in refernece to Goneril and Regan. Their inhumanity. They are also destroyed by their animal instincts

2 of 9

Eye sight / blindness

  • Lear- 'Hence, and avod my sight' lear refuses to look at anybody who has offended him
  • Lear- 'A man may see how this world goes with no eyes' 
  • Gloucester- 'I have no way, and therefore want no eyes' 
  • Gloucester- ''Tis times' plague when madmen lead the blind' 
  • Gloucester: dark and comfortless'  this describes the time untill Cordelia returns
  • Fool - so out went the candle and we were left in darkling' Metaphor. This shows a prediction for the future, when Lear is in the storm and thinking dark thoughts. The candle represents Lear, as a monarch he is the source of light in the kingdom, when he burns out all the characters associated with lear are 'left darkling'
  • kent - see better, Lear act 1, warning Lear that he is behaving foolishly

It is important to see youself and the world clearly. Cordelia is asociated with radiating light and healing tears. when Lear loses her, his eyes fail him


3 of 9


  • Lear - O' let me not be mad
  • Poor tom's a cold
  • Fools songs
  • Keep me in temper

types of madenss

1. lears rash actions at the start show poitical insanity.

2. The bloodlust demonstrated by Goneril, Regan, Cornwall

the storm reflects Lears madness is destructive, almost too much for man to endure

3. the fool's proffesional madness. the Fool is compared to Lear. nonsense can conceal deep truths and meaning and show the commentary on society. when the Fool dissapears, it is after Lear becomes mad and the Fool is no longer neaded

4. Edgars fake madenss. The fool's jests and Edgar behaviours ay have been seen as amusiing to an Elizabethan audiece (visited Bedlan for amusament). Edgars fake madness heightens the pathos of act iii

4 of 9


  • Lear - The bide and belting of this pitiless storm
  • allow not nature more than nature needs
  • blow winds and crack your cheeks! rage blow!
  • cordelia - unpublished virtues of the Earth benign nature - to resotre her and displays the virtues of good nature

Lears conception of the nature and the natural order reflect feugal ideas about the chain of being and the devine right of kings.we are presented with conflicting views of what natural and whats nature. the dominance of evil characters suggests that nature is a curel force.

Edmund suggests that nature is a godess who provides him with bad nature - its natural. similarly cruelty comes naturaly to Gonerila and Regan, and they delight in it. 

the good characters see this as unnatural - we are told the sisters are monsters. The good characters se believe it is natural to be loving, trusting and good, and believe in natural order - but they suffer

natural order - illegitimate son becomes more dominant than the legitimate son lear causes the unnantural orders - allows the sisters a free reign, nature reflects the mistakes of men and natural rder is easily destroyed

5 of 9


  • Cordelia- 'Time will unfold what plighted cunning hides'
  • Edmund- 'The curiosity of nations to deprive me' 
  • Lear-'How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless child!'
  • Lear- 'I am a man more sinned against than sinning' 
  • Lear- 'Look with thine ears: see how yond justice rails upon yond simple thief... which is the justice, which is the thief?' 
  • 'no, you unnatural hags, i will have revenges on you both'

Lear- 'Why should a dog, a horse, a rat, have life, and thou no breath at all?
throughout king lear characters judge. Gloucester and lear misjudge their children, who have better judgement
the workings of human justice reflect the faults. the 'trials' are flawed (lears love test has disasterus consequences)
Gloucester blinding is an appaling act of injustice, aswell as Cordelias death
Social justice - Lear considers the lives of the 'poor naked wretches', which he previously did not

6 of 9


  • now gods stand up for bastards
  • these daughter's hearts aganst their father
  • a brand from heaven - to part Lear and Cordelia. irony as it is a mortal, Edmund who does. Lear does not mention the gods when he asks why she is killed -proof that we should blame men
  • Albany: the gods will defend her directly after this line Cordelia is carried on stage - how are we meant to believe the gods are just
  • Edgar: the gods are just, and of our pleasant vices - this does not ring true when Cordelia is hanged
  • Edmund: the revenging gods - ironic

The characters appeal to the gods in times of crisis - lear believes that the gds will punish Regan and Goneril for their ingratitudedifferent characters have conflicting views on if the gods are just , indifferent or destructive. Cordelia and Edgar act with chrisitian fortitiude and behaviours. there is religious imaery to describe Cordlia, but she is sacrificed. Edgar - christ like figure and prescence of justice. Edmund - shows little respect for any religion, if he does it is ironically. even when he asks for life in act v scene 3, he nevr suggest his chang in behaviour and to do good is due to the gods or belifesThe quickness of Edmunds rise and the fact that the faithless man is responsible for Cordelias death suggests man is as cruel and powerfull as any other force. But Edmund is stopped by god-fearing characters. The athiest cannot defeat the faithful

7 of 9


  • Gloucester - brothers divide... there's a son against father
  • Edmund: the younger rises when the old doth fall
  • lear: better thou hads't not been born that not to have pleased me better
  • lear: here i disclaim all my paternal care, propquinity anf propert of blood
  • Lear: I did her wrong

Lear allows the new breed of opportunists to undermine the heirarcy.  Goneril, Regan and Edmund will not accept the roles given to them. the sisters refuse to act like the good, submissive Renaissance women. All three enjoy abusing their power, and show no respect for their families

The love and hate of the play is centered around fathers and their children. There are no mothers 

Shakespear ignores the war and France, Cordelias husband. Frnce is inognored as we are meant to believe that he is a loving husband at the beginning but he has no mention at the end. this keeps the focus on the families, and on England as James the 1st would have been watching in the audiencet.

The play glorifies love and loyalty - Cordelia, Kent,Fool, Edgar

8 of 9

Love and loyalty

  • Cordelia- 'Obey you, love you and most honour you'
  • Lear- 'Thy master, whom thou lovest, shall find the full of labours' 
  • Edmund- 'Edmund the base, shall top the legitimate. I grow; I prosper.' 
  • Kent- 'I am the very man...That from your first of difference and decay, have follow'd your sad steps'
  • cordelia - o thou  good kent! how shall i love and work to match thy goodness
  • Goneril- 'Sir i love you more than word can weild the matter'
  • Coredlia- 'What shall cordelia speak? Love,and be silent.'
  • Regan- 'I find she names my very deed of love; Only she comes too short'
  • Cordelia- 'I cannot heave my heart into my mouth'
  • Cordelia- , Obey you, love you and most honour you'  
  • Gloucester- 'I have a son...who is no dearer in my account' 
  • Kent- 'Royal Lear, whom I have ever honour'd as my king, loved as my father'
  • France- 'Love's not love when it is mingled with regards aloof from th'entire point.'
9 of 9


No comments have yet been made

Similar English Literature resources:

See all English Literature resources »See all King Lear resources »