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1623 / England

Disinheritance

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Lear: Give me the map there. Know that we have divided
In three our kingdom; and ’tis our fast intent
To shake all cares and business from our age,
Conferring them on younger strengths, while we
Unburdened crawl toward death. Our son of Cornwall,
And you, our no less loving son of Albany,
We have this hour a constant will to publish
Our daughters’ several dowers, that future strife
May be prevented now. The princes, France and Burgundy,
Great rivals in our youngest daughter’s love,
Long in our court have made their amorous sojourn,
And here are to be answered. Tell me, my daughters,
Since now we will divest us both of rule,
Interest of territory, cares of state,
Which of you shall we say doth love us most?
That we our largest bounty may extend
Where nature doth with merit challenge. Goneril,
Our eldest-born, speak first.

Goneril: Sir, I love you more than word can wield the matter;
Dearer than eyesight, space, and liberty;
Beyond what can be valued, rich or rare;
No less than life, with grace, health, beauty, honor;
As much as child ever loved, or father found;
A love that makes breath poor, and speech unable;
Beyond all manner of so much I love you.

Cordelia: [aside] What shall Cordelia speak? Love, and be silent.

Lear: Of all these bounds, even from this line to this,
With shadowy forests and with champaigns riched,
With plenteous rivers and wide-skirted meads,
We make thee lady. To thine and Albany’s issue
Be this perpetual. What says our second daughter,
Our dearest Regan, wife of Cornwall?

Regan: I am made of that self-mettle as my sister,
And prize me at her worth. In my true heart
I find she names my very deed of love;
Only she comes too short: that I profess
Myself an enemy to all other joys
Which the most precious square of sense professes,
And find I am alone felicitate
In your dear highness’ love.

Cordelia: [aside]                        Then poor Cordelia!
And yet not so, since I am sure my love’s
More ponderous than my tongue.

Lear: To thee and thine hereditary ever
Remain this ample third of our fair kingdom,
No less in space, validity, and pleasure,
Than that conferred on Goneril. Now, our joy,
Although our last and least, to whose young love
The vines of France and milk of Burgundy
Strive to be interessed, what can you say to draw
A third more opulent than your sisters? Speak.

Cordelia: Nothing, my lord.

Lear: Nothing?

Cordelia: Nothing.

Lear: Nothing will come of nothing; speak again.

Cordelia: Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave
My heart into my mouth. I love your majesty
According to my bond; no more nor less.

Lear: How, how, Cordelia! Mend your speech a little,
Lest it may mar your fortunes.

Cordelia:                                             Good my lord,
You have begot me, bred me, loved me; I
Return those duties back as are right fit,
Obey you, love you, and most honor you.
Why have my sisters husbands, if they say
They love you all? Haply, when I shall wed,
That lord whose hand must take my plight shall carry
Half my love with him, half my care and duty.
Sure, I shall never marry like my sisters,
To love my father all.

Lear: But goes thy heart with this?

Cordelia:                                                     Ay, my good lord.

Lear: So young, and so untender?

Cordelia: So young, my lord, and true.

Lear: Let it be so; thy truth then be thy dower:
For, by the sacred radiance of the sun,
The mysteries of Hecate and the night,
By all the operation of the orbs
From whom we do exist and cease to be,
Here I disclaim all my paternal care,
Propinquity and property of blood,
And as a stranger to my heart and me
Hold thee from this forever. The barbarous Scythian
Or he that makes his generation messes
To gorge his appetite, shall to my bosom
Be as well neighbored, pitied, and relieved,
As thou my sometime daughter.

Kent:                                                        Good my liege,—

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About the Author

William Shakespeare, from King Lear. As with Othello and The Tempest, Shakespeare in King Lear examines the father-daughter relationship, in this instance leaving off any mention whatsoever of the mother. About the playwright and his play, George Bernard Shaw estimated, “No man will ever write a better tragedy.” In the five years between 1599 and 1604, Shakespeare wrote Henry V, Julius Caesar, Hamlet, Twelfth Night, Troilus and Cressida, All’s Well That Ends Well, Measure for Measure, and Othello.

You don’t have to deserve your mother’s love. You have to deserve your father’s. He’s more particular. The father is always a Republican towards his son, and his mother’s always a Democrat.
Robert Frost, 1960
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