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Lear, King of Britain, desirous to “shake all cares and business from his age," resolves to divide his kingdom between his daughters, Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia. He inquires from them the degree of love each feels for him, and deceived by the extravagant professions of Goneril and Regan (wives of the Dukes of Albany and Cornwall), apportions his realm equally between them, to the unjust exclusion of Cordelia, his youngest daughter, whose affection for her father, though less strongly expressed than her sisters', is deep and genuine. The Earl of Kent strongly, but in vain, pleads against the disinherison of Cordelia, and is banished by Lear for his urgent pleading in her behalf. Notwithstanding her portionless condition, the King of France marries Cordelia for her beauty and worth, and takes her with him to France. Goneril and Regan, being mistresses of the kingdom, agree in turns to entertain their father and his retinue, but they treat the old king with cruelty, and he goes mad. Cordelia, now Queen of France, advised of her sisters' unfilial conduct, advances with an army to vindicate her father's cause, but her forces are defeated, and she and Lear are taken prisoners; she is executed, and he expires over her dead body. A dispute has occurred between Goneril and Regan, the latter of whom is poisoned by her sister, who kills herself. In a combat between Edmund and Edgar, half-brothers and sons of the Earl of Glo’ster, the former, whose conduct throughout the play is marked by the deepest villany, is slain, and dies confessing his crimes.
Gonerils profession of Love for her Father.
Sir, I Do love you more than words can wield the matter, Dearer than eye-sight, space and liberty ; Beyond what can be valued, rich or rare ;
No less than life, with grace, health, beauty, honour ;
. Regan's profession of Filial Love.
Fairest Cordelia, thou art most rich, being poor ;
Ingratitude in a Child.
* Here and where are in this place used as nouns.
Act II. Lear's indignation at Goneril's unkindness. I prythee, daughter, do not make me mad; I will not trouble thee, my child; farewell : We'll no more meet, no more see one another :But yet thou art my flesh, my blood, my daughter ; Or, rather, a disease that's in my flesh, Which I must needs call mine : thou art a boil, A plague-sore, an embossed* carbuncle, In my corrupted blood. But I'll not chide thee; Let shame come when it will, I do not call it : I do not bid the thunder-bearer shoot, Nor tell tales of thee to high-judging Jove.
Lear on the Ingratitude of his Daughters. You see me here, you gods, a poor old man, As full of grief as age; wretched in both ! If it be you that stir these daughters' hearts Against their father, fool me not so much To bear it tamely; touch me with noble anger ! O, let not women's weapons, water-drops, Stain my man's cheeks !—No, you unnatural hags, I will have such revenges on you both, That all the world shall — I will do such things, What they are, yet I know not : but they shall be The terrors of the earth. You think I'll weep: No, I'll not weep :I have full cause of weeping, but this heart Shall break into a hundred thousand flaws, Or ere I'll weep.
Act III. Lear's Exclamations in the Tempest. Blow, wind, and crack your cheeks ! rage ! blow! You cataracts and hurricanoes spout Till you have drench'd our steeples, drowned the cocks ! You sulphurous and thought-executing fires, Vaunt couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts, Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder, Strike flat the thick rotundity o'the world!
Rumble thy bellyful! Spit, fire ! spout, rain !
Reflections on Man. Is man no more than this ? Consider him well : thou owest the worm no silk, the beast no hide, the sheep no wool, the cat no perfume !-Ha! here's three of us are sophisticated !—Thou art the thing itself: unaccommodated man is no more but such a poor, bare, forked animal as thou art.-Off, off, you lendings.
Patience and sorrow strove
Description of Dover Cliff.
How fearful And dizzy 'tis to cast one's eyes so low! The crows, and choughs, that wing the midway air, Show scarce so gross as beetles : half way down Hangs one that gathers samphire ; dreadful trade ! Methinks he seems no bigger than his head : The fishermen, that walk upon the beach, Appear like mice ; and yon tall anchoring bark, Diminished to her cock;* her cock, a buoy Almost too small for sight : the murmuring surge That on the unnumber'd idle pebbles chafes, Cannot be heard so high :-I'll look no more ; Lest my brain turn, and the deficient sight Topple down headlong.
Glos'ter's Farewell to the World. O you mighty gods ! This world I do renounce; and, in your sights, Shake patiently my great affliction off: If I could bear it longer, and not fall * Cock-boat, a small boat belonging to the “ anchoring bark.”