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

frank: generous

give me leave: the storm prevents Lear from brooding more on his troubles

bide: endure

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)

ratsbane: poison

four-inched bridges: narrow, risky (another way of killing himself)

course: chase

five wits: common sense, imagination, fantasy, estimation, memory

star-blasting: becoming the victim of malignant stars

taking: pestilence

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

faults: sins

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).

answer: confront

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.

aroint: begone

sallets: salads

ditch-dog: carcass of a dog, "road kill"

mantle: scum on the pond

tithing: parish

Smulkin: a demon; also Modo and Mahu in the lines below

flesh and blood: children

gets: begets

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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