Notes on Act III, scene iv
hovel: shack, hut
fixed: rooted, lodged (the storm in his mind distracts him from feeling the storm outside)
delicate: when the mind is free from worries, the body's needs are felt more strongly
filial: the ingratitude of children
tear: bite; it's as unnatural as if my mouth bit my own hand
home: to the utmost
give me leave: the storm prevents Lear from brooding more on his troubles
looped and windowed: clothes (rags) full of holes
care: as king, Lear admits that he has not worried much about those less fortunate in his kingdom.
Take physic, pomp: take your medicine, you pompous, high and mighty rulers
superflux: superfluity; give the poor what you have in excess and don't need.
fathom and half: because of the downpour, Edgar like a sailor is taking soundings to check the depth of the water.
poor Tom: beggars were often called by this name which Edgar adopts for a disguise
foul fiend: Edgar pretends to be pestered by a demon
halters: nooses (the demon tempts Tom to commit suicide in several ways)
four-inched bridges: narrow, risky (another way of killing himself)
five wits: common sense, imagination, fantasy, estimation, memory
star-blasting: becoming the victim of malignant stars
There: Tom attacks his demon with an imaginary sword; or one critic suggests he finds lice on himself, biting him
pass: predicament, condition; Lear identifies with Poor Tom, and believes he must suffer because he gave away all his wealth as well
blanket: what little he wears to cover his nakedness
pendulous: hanging dangerously overhead
pelican: thought to feed on their parents' blood
pillicock: probably a nursery rhyme, playing off the word pelican, may be another word for phallus
commit not: adultery
array: fancy clothes
gloves in my cap: as a pledge from his mistress
out-paramoured the Turk: had more concubines than a sultan with his harem
light of ear: listened to gossip and lies
plackets: slits in women's skirts
Dolphin: possibly referring to the French prince or dauphin (much of what Tom says is nonsense).
cat: the civet cat, whose glands secrete an ingredient used in perfume
sophisticated: "here's three of us (Lear, Fool, Kent) who are artificial, compared to this natural man Tom"
unaccommodated: unfurnished with the extras of civilized man
forked: standing on two legs
lendings: Lear's clothes, what he has borrowed from the silkworm, beast, etc; he wants to join Tom in his nakedness
Flibbertigibbet: a devil from Elizabethan folklore
first cock: midnight
web and pin: cataracts in the eye
Swithold: an Anglo-Saxon saint who exorcised demons, walked over (footed) the wold (uplands), confronting the demon who causes bad dreams and her nine children, making her alight (stop riding the poor sleeper) and swear (plight her troth) to do no more harm.
ditch-dog: carcass of a dog, "road kill"
mantle: scum on the pond
Smulkin: a demon; also Modo and Mahu in the lines below
flesh and blood: children
suffer: permit me
philosopher: in his madness Lear thinks of Tom as a wise man; likewise his references to Theban and Athenian (Greek).
prevent: ward off
importune: plead urgently
Kent: Gloucester does not recognize the disguised man he is speaking with (anymore than he does his son Edgar).
outlawed from my blood: disinherited
Rowland: the nephew of Charlemagne, hero of the French epic The Song of Roland (again, more nonsense verse from Tom)
word was still: motto was always
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