Theme of power - King Lear

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  • Created by: Ewa
  • Created on: 26-11-14 14:23

F - First Folio; Q - Quarto

The best answers usually differentiate between the F and Q versions of the text.



F - "while we/ Unburdened crawl towards death" 1.1.39-40

At the beginning of the play Lear willingly removes himself from power; often seen as a rejection of responsibility.

"crawl towards death" - a reference to age. However, Coppelia Kahn argues the "reversal of roles" (feminist reading), where at the beginning of the play Lear behaves in a very temperamental way, throwing tantrums, which reduces him to the role of a child, while the three daughters become matriatchal figures. It is important to contextually consider the missing mother(s?) of the daughters and why that is so. Therefore "crawl" could actually reference baby crawling.

"Come not between the dragon and his wrath!" 1.1.123

Animal, predatory imagery. Dragon - mythical creature - adds to fairytale-like quality of 1.1.

"But now her price is fallen" 1.1.198

Expression of Lear's power over women (Cordelia here). She is objectified and auctioned like an animal. It's important to note that both Goneril and Regan are often described using animal imagery, often demonising them. However, only predatory, dangerous animals are used in their descriptions.  

Q - "The sweet and bitter fool will presently appear

The one in motley here the other found out there" [The Fool] 1.4.139-140

The Fool is often presented as holding a mirror in this particular extract, pointing to himself wearing the motley of a professional fool, as well as Lear in the mirror. A big part of this scene consists of the Fool pointing out Lear's foolishness in giving away the entire kingdom.

AO4 - The entire passage removed from F, due to censorship of the idea of monopolies as a way of trading with particular countries, favoured by James I and Elizabeth I. James' awards grew so large that it led to a campaign against them.

The next lines that consist of:

"Dost thou call me fool, boy? / All thy other titles thou hast given away; that thou wast born with."


Relates back to Kahn's reading of Lear being child-like and foolish. Lear is once again dismissed as a baby.

"Hear, Nature, hear, dear goddess, F hear F" 1.4.267

Can be related to Edmund's soliloquy in 1.2, where he pledges loyalty to Nature and inverts it.

The repetition of "hear" is interesting, as it directly contrasts the theme of sight/blindness. Since hearing is a different sense, Lear begins to distrust sight, perhaps due to the changed perception of Goneril. Can be very interesting in terms of relating it to Gloucester and his sons - only the loss of his sight lets him see the true colours of the entire situation.

Also, the repetition begins to suggest the first signs of Lear's descent into madness. This technique is frequently used in order to depict…


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