King Lear by William Shakespeare

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76 ‘Abhorred villain! Unnatural, detested, brutish villain!’ – Gloucester’s burlesque rage parallel’s Lear’s own thoughtless fury. The word ‘unnatural’ is obviously significant; ‘brutish’ foreshadows the fact that Edgar will soon have to live as a brute animal.

103 ‘These late eclipses in the sun and moon’ – significant since Lear swore ‘in vain’ by these, according to Kent. The heavenly powers are beginning to respond to the discord initiated by the King. Such eclipses were also a sign of impending apocalypse, a theme Gloucester now develops.

119ff ‘when we are sick in fortune – often the surfeits of our own behaviour –...’ – Edmund reveals a rather atheistic belief in ‘fortune.’ Events are either random, or we have caused our own bad luck by our own bad actions. To blame the heavenly powers of astrology is purely a weak evasion of reality and our own responsibilities.

135 ‘My cue’ – Edmund is acting, and enjoying his role. For him this is a comedy – it’s amusing and results in his own good fortune.

136 ‘Tom o’ Bedlam’ – foreshadows Edgar’s fall.

179 ‘a brother noble’ – Edmund respects Edgar – though he also laughs at his ‘foolish honesty.’ This awareness of Edgar’s nobility, however, adds more credence to their final reconciliation at the end.

184 ‘All with me’s meet’ – This, at the end of the scene, is a more accurate portrayal of Edmund’s ‘philosophy’ than his parodic apostrophe to ‘Nature’ at the beginning. There is no law at all and everything is permitted.

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William Shakespeare

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