Notes on Act IV, scene i
contemned: despised (it's better to know you are despised, than to be despised but be fooled by flattery)
esperance: hope (Edgar has hope, since things can't get any worse, they must get better.)
means: prosperity makes us overconfident
defects prove our commodities: our sufferings do us good
worse: seeing his tortured father, Edgar rejects the false optimism of his first speech, realizing that he now indeed is worse off than when he thought of his own suffering only. In his next line, he reasons that as long as a person is still alive, able to think "this is the worst" life can still become harder. Suffering only ends in death.
reason: sanity; if he were a total madman, he wouldn't have wits enough to beg.
wanton: mischievous, cruel; the gods toy with us as if we were nothing more than insects (worms)
angering: offending; Edgar regrets he must keep up his disguise for awhile.
o'ertake: catch up to us
ancient love: longtime affection he has for the family he has served
'parel: apparel, clothes
daub: lay it on, act the part
stile: door frame; Edgar says he knows it the entire way
superfluous: having more than he needs
lust-dieted: having his fill of lust (perhaps in the begetting of illegitimate Edmund?)
slaves your ordinance: that enslaves the god's commands to his own will
distribution: the wealthy who have too much, giving to those in need, by which means the heavens will spread more justice in the world
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