King Lear


Significant Quotations

1.“Kent: …Be Kent unmannerly

When Lear is mad. What wouldst thou do, old man?

Think’st thou that duty should dread to speak

When power to flattery bows? To plainness honor’s bound

When majesty stoops to folly. Reverse thy doom,

And in thy best consideration check

This hideous rashness. Answer my life my judgment:

Thy youngest daughter does not love thee least;

Nor are those empty-hearted whose low sounds

Reverb no hollowness.” (I.i.147-155)

In this excerpt from the beginning of the play, Kent tries to persuade Lear to revoke his banishment of Cordelia. Kent says that it is his responsibility to be “unmannerly” when the king is making a poor choice. Like Cordelia, Kent is honest and blunt in his speech. Kent insists that a king’s advisors owe him truth, not flattery. In his plain and honest way, Kent names Lear’s behavior mad, rash, and full of folly, insisting that he does so for Lear’s own good. Kent’s speech draws attention to the theme of sworn loyalty versus true loyalty, saying that “plainness” of speech is equal to honor, while flattering speech is dishonorable and that it is foolish for those in power to believe it. Kent even goes so far as to stake is life on the judgment that Cordelia’s plain speech contains more real love than the flowery language of Regan and Goneril. Indeed, Lear’s mistake will lead to tragedy. This passage foreshadows tragedy, even as it establishes Kent’s genuine loyalty and the importance, for leaders, of equating blunt speech with honesty and flattery with dishonesty.

2. “Cornwall: If he be taken he shall never more

Be fear’d of doing harm. Make your own purpose,

How in my strength you please. For you, Edmund,

Whose virtue and obedience doth this instant

So much commend itself, you shall be ours.

Natures of such deep trust we shall much need:

You we first seize...

Sign up to continue reading Significant Quotations >

Essays About King Lear