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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.
Goneril's profession of Love for her Father.
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;
A love that makes breath poor, and speech unable;
Regan's profession of Filial Love.
I am made of that self metal as my sister,
Which the most precious square of sense possesses;
In your dear highness' love.
The King of France's approval of Cordelia's conduct.
Fairest Cordelia, thou art most rich, being poor; Most choice, forsaken; and most loved, despised! Thee and thy virtues here I seize upon :
Be it lawful, I take up what's cast away.
Gods, gods! 'tis strange that from their cold'st neglect My love should kindle to inflamed respect.—
Thy dowerless daughter, king, thrown to my chance, Is queen
of us, of ours, and our fair France.
Not all the dukes of wat'rish Burgundy
Shall buy this unpriz'd precious maid of me.--
Thou losest here, a better where* to find.
Ingratitude in a Child.
Ingratitude thou marble-hearted fiend,
More hideous, when thou show'st thee in a child,
*Here and where are in this place used as nouns.
Lear's indignation at Goneril's unkindness.
I pr'ythee, daughter, do not make me mad;
Which I must needs call mine: thou art a boil,
In my corrupted blood. But I'll not chide thee;
Lear on the Ingratitude of his Daughters.
You see me here, you gods, a poor old
That all the world shall-I will do such things,—
No, I'll not weep :—
I have full cause of weeping, but this heart
Lear's Exclamations in the Tempest.
Blow, wind, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow! You cataracts and hurricanoes spout
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.
Cordelia's emotion on hearing of her Sister's cruelty. Patience and sorrow strove
Who should express her goodliest.
You have seen Sunshine and rain at once: her smiles and tears Were like a better day: Those happy smiles, That play'd on her ripe lip, seem'd not to know What guests were in her eyes; which parted thence, As pearls from diamonds dropp'd.
Description of Dover Cliff.
And dizzy 'tis to cast one's eyes so low!
Glos'ter's Farewell to the World.
O you mighty gods!
This world I do renounce; and, in your sights,
If I could bear it longer, and not fall
* Cock-boat, a small boat belonging to the "anchoring bark."