Notes on Act I, scene i

GLOUCESTER: pronounced "Gloster"

more affected: preferred, had more affection for

qualities ... weighed: their portions of land are so equal, or their personal qualities are so balanced

curiosity: close scrutiny

moiety: portion; that is, they each will receive equal amounts so neither one will benefit more than the other.

breeding: upbringing

brazed: brazened, hardened (no longer embarrassed to acknowledge his illegitimate son)

conceive: understand, with Gloucester jokingly taking it in the second sense of sexual conception

ere: before

issue: result

proper: handsome

order of law: legitimate

account: estimation

knave: "rascal", in this case said affectionately, but usually an insult, an unprincipled, crafty villain (which turns out to be true)

saucily: bawdily, by means of an extramarital affair

sent for: planned for within the bounds of marriage

fair: beautiful

whoreson: bastard (how often has Edmund endured his father calling him this?)

sue: desire

study deserving: work to deserve your praise

out: away from home, another country?

Sennet: music signaling the king's entrance

Attend: escort them in

darker purpose: secret intention for this meeting. In the opening lines Gloucester and Kent show that they are already aware of the king's decision to divide the kingdom. His "darker purpose" must then concern his giving a third part to Cordelia and her new husband.

fast: firm (if "first", primary)

Unburden'd: Lear intends to give over the responsibilities of ruling to his three daughters, so that he will no longer bear the burden of leadership in his few remaining years. "Crawl" is ironic, as Lear will in his old age become a child again, depending on his daughters to care for him.

son: son-in-law

publish: announce

several dowers: individual dowries, inheritance given at marriage (how long have the older sisters been married?)

strife: he wants to divide up the kingdom peacefully to avoid future wars over territory

amorous sojourn: visit of courtship

answered: today we will decide who marries Cordelia

divest: free ourselves of, as in taking off clothes, an ironic foreshadowing of Lear's attempt to strip himself during the storm

nature ... challenge: natural affection should be equal among the daughters but one may prove herself more worthy and receive a greater portion of the kingdom if she declares her love more profusely and flatters her father more

wield: carry, convey

valued: estimated

found: found himself to be loved

Aside: a thought spoken to the audience that no one on stage can hear

champains riched: enriched plains

wide-skirted meads: widespread meadows

issue: children

perpetual: from now on

mettle: character, temperament, but with second sense of "metal," gold or coins with which she buys his love

prize: estimate the value of my love to be the same as hers

names: describes

felicitate: happy

ponderous: weighty; that is, she believes her loving nature speaks for itself, more decidedly than anything she might say

hereditary: children

validity: value

least: youngest (Q1 uses "least" in a different sense)

interest: interested parties, combining with the wealth of her lands in England their vineyards and pastures (milk)

nothing: you will receive nothing from me if you speak nothing 

Unhappy: unfortunate (to be put in this awkward position)

bond: duty as a daughter

Haply: perhaps

plight: pledge of marriage

dower: all you will receive for your wedding is your truthfulness

Hecate: goddess of the underworld and of witches; seen as a character in Macbeth

operation of the orbs: astrological influence

propinquity: relationship

from this: from this time forth

Scythian: Asian tribes noted for their savagery 

generation messes: makes meals of his children; that is, "I would love a savage or a cannibal as much as you"

sometime: once, former

set my rest: remaining days of leisure; also "stake all" as in a card game 

nursery: care. This raises an unanswered question: did Lear intend to go live with Cordelia and her new husband in another country, or did he hope that she would refuse to marry in order to stay with him and "love her father all"?

who stirs?: quickly, someone, call France and Burgundy (Lear is rather impatient).

digest: the other two daughters will absorb the third that was to be Cordelia's 

effects that troup with majesty: all that goes with being a king

turn: he intends on staying with each of the other daughters every other month, keeping with him a hundred men as well which they must house and feed

addition: Lear wants to keep the title and the privileges of being king, but without the responsibility

coronet: not Lear's crown, but the one that he was planning to give Cordelia; one Lear snatched the coronet off his daughter's head and tossed it at Albany and Cornwall  (in contrast, Olivier removes his own crown and casts it on the map). Note in Julius Caesar the distinction that Casca makes between the two types: "I saw Mark Antony offer him a crown, yet 'twas not a crown neither, 'twas one of these coronets" (I.ii)

make: get out of the way of the arrow (of my anger) 

fall: strike

fork: point of the arrow

unmannerly: I must be rude if you are going to act like a madman

duty: it's my duty to challenge you like this, when you have so foolishly given in to your other daughters' flattery

plainness: I honor you by speaking the truth plainly, without flattery, if it is to warn you against acting foolishly

reserve thy state: retain your place and authority as king. In Q, "doom" would mean his judgement on Cordelia

check: stop

Answer my life: upon my life

reverb no hollowness: reverberate like a hollow drum; that is, Cordelia's lowly (humble) speech does not indicate that her heart is empty of love; based on a proverb, "The empty vessel makes the greatest sound" (Henry V, 4.4.66).

blank: the white center of the target; that is, let me help you see clearly and aim straight

Apollo: Roman sun god; Shakespeare sets his tale in pre-Christian Britain, mentioning only pagan gods

vassal: menial servant

miscreant: heretic

forbear: restrain yourself

physician: kill the one who is trying to cure you, and reward those who would do you harm (Goneril, Regan)

vent clamour: breathe a cry in protest

recreant: traitor

provision: making preparations

trunk: body

freedom; that is, since you will act thus, I will be better off somewhere else (although Kent later stays in disguise to serve the king)

approve: may your actions match your great words of love

Flourish: trumpet fanfare

tender: offer; that is, "you won't take back your offer, will you?"

dear: meaning precious and valuable, both used here

aught: anything

seeming substance: just what you see standing there, nothing else

pieced: added to it

owes: owns, possesses; with all her faults

strangered: made a stranger to us

Election: choice; no one can choose under such conditions

stray: stray so far from loving you, to marry you off to a daughter I hate

avert: turn

nature: see comments for next scene

argument: theme, what you talked most about

trice: short period of time

dismantle: undo

monsters it: makes monstrous

fore-vouched: previously sworn; either she has committed a terrible act, or the love you once vowed you had for her is proven false (fallen into taint)

faith ... plant in me: to believe this of her would take a miracle

want: lack

purpose not: I don't have the talent to say things that I don't intend to do (as my sisters have)

still soliciting: ever-begging, not proud

tardiness in nature: natural hesitation to speak, but would rather show love than speak of it

Love's ... point: love is not love if it is mixed with consideration of things that don't matter (such as her dowry)

love: Burgundy loves possession of land more than her

inflamed respect: ardent love

waterish: with many rivers

unprized: unappreciated

benison: blessing

washed: tearful

professed: you professed that you love him

fortune's alms: a small gift cast aside by Fortune

scanted: neglected

worth the want: your lack (want) of fortune is due to your apparent lack of love; you gave nothing and now you have nothing

plighted: promised; time will show if you are true to your flattering words

Who cover ... derides: you may cover up your faults for a while, but eventually they will be revealed to your shame

grossly: obvious

slenderly: little

soundest: most rational; even in his best years, he was temperamental

long-ingraffed: ingrown habits; that is, we will suffer not only from problems he has had all his life, but those that also come with old age

therewithal: along with that

choleric: bad-tempered

unconstant starts: unexpected, impulsive actions

compliment: formality, ceremony upon the king of France's leaving

sit: consult

surrender: If Lear continues to exercise his former authority with such bad behavior, then his abdication of the throne will be more trouble to us than it's worth.

heat: immediately, "while the iron is hot"


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