Notes on Act I, scene iv

defuse: disguise; Kent speaks in a different accent as part of his disguise

full issue: intended outcome

razed my likeness: shaved off his beard to change his appearance

come: come to pass that ...

stay a jot: wait a second

profess: what is your profession

eat no fish: he's not a Catholic, who ate fish instead of meat on Fridays, an anachronism in the play, since the action is apparently set before Christian times (notice the references to Roman gods).

countenance: face and bearing (the way you present yourself)

fain: want to

keep honest council: keep secrets

mar a curious tale: spoil an elaborate story, that is, he's not a good storyteller, but he sees this as a positive quality, as he speaks plainly.

dote: show excessive fondness

knave: boy (often used in a derogatory sense but not here)

clotpoll: blockhead

asleep: since no one seems to be responding to his requests quickly enough

roundest: rudest

entertained: treated

wont: accustomed to

abatement: reduction

dependants: servants

rememberest: remind, confirm my own observations

jealous curiosity: overly suspicious concern over minor matters

very pretence: true intention

young lady: Cordelia

pined: grieved, longing for Cordelia

No more of that: Lear has noted the Fool's sadness, but doesn't want to be reminded of his sending Cordelia away.

father: Lear is enraged since he doesn't acknowledge him as "My king." 

whoreson: son of a whore, bastard

bandy: volley, exchange (as in tennis); only an insolent servant would look directly at the king

base football player: a lowly game played in the streets by idle boys

differences: in rank (to know your betters)

if you will measure your lubber's length again: if you want to be flattened out on the floor again (to measure your length), you clumsy oaf (lubber = an inexperienced sailor; a landlubber)

earnest: payment (Lear gives him a coin)

coxcomb: the fool's traditional hat, perhaps with bells

out of favor: Kent is a fool to side with Lear, since he's no longer in power

an: if

smile ... cold shortly: if you can't flatter and side with those in power, you'll be out in the cold soon enough.

banished: ironically, by giving them his kingdom, he has lost his daughters' affection (pretended though it was).

on's: of his

blessing: by sending her away from this poor situation

follow him: if you follow such a man, you are indeed a fool.

nuncle: contraction of "mine uncle" as the fool calls the king

Brach: bitch, the text probably should read "the Lady's brach" instead of a proper name (JD Wilson). The fool says that he (Truth) is whipped and sent outside like a dog, whereas Goneril's pet servant, Oswald (whom Lear has just called a dog), gets to stay inside by the fire.

gall: irritating sore (the fact that Oswald is favored in this house rather than being punished for his insolence to the king)

Mark it: pay attention

showest: that is, don't show all your cards, don't reveal all your worth.

owest: own, that is, don't lend someone everything you have (as the king has done).

goest: ride more than you walk

trowest: believe; listen to others' opinions, not just those who agree with you.

throwest: stake less at dice than you throw for, get the odds on your opponent

two tens to a score: you'll do better than break even (two tens = twenty, a score)

breath of an unfee'd lawyer: advice of an unpaid lawyer

nothing: echoes what Lear said to Cordelia in the first scene

Prithee: pray thee

rent: his lands are now worth nothing to him, since he gave them away.

stand: you, Lear, stand in for him (this fool that told you to give away your kingdom, who of course is Lear himself)

motley: the costume of a jester, typically a patchwork of green and yellow

found out there: discovered to be a fool, as he points to Lear

fool: foolish, that is, the "fool" speaks wisely

monopoly: the lords and great men will not let me keep all the folly to myself

meat: the contents of the egg

crowns: half shells

clovest: split

borest thy ass: carried your donkey on your back, foolishly overturning normal behavior 

bald crown: his head

like myself: like a fool

Fools ... apish: fools are less in favor these days, because "wise" men now play the fools, mimicking (aping) the professionals.

mothers: you reversed roles with your daughters, as now they spank you

play bo-peep: act like a child

Prithee: I pray thee (I ask you)

fain: desire to

kin: are you and your daughters truly related?

pared: as in paring an apple, cut off the sides

frontlet: a band worn across the forehead, used here to refer to a frown

O without a figure: a zero without a digit to give it numeric value; he is nothing.

shelled peascod: empty pea pod

all-licensed: allowed to take liberties, to insult his betters, which was part of his function in court, as only he could tell the king to his face that he is a fool (note the contrast with Kent who was banished for saying so).

retinue: the 100 knights he keeps with him

carp: complain

rank: excessive, violent

redress: solution; she hoped that by mentioning this problem to Lear, he would have taken care of it himself and brought his knights to order

too late: lately

put it on: you encourage this trouble

sleep: correction would not wait

tender of a wholesome weal: care for the peace of the state

might ... proceeding: correcting your faults might humiliate you, but under the circumstances would be wise and justified action

cuckoo: bird that lays its eggs in another's nest, in this case a sparrow, who feeds the young cuckoos anyway until they are old enough to kill it (metaphor of ungrateful children).

darkling: in the dark

fraught: endowed

dispositions: moods

Whoop, Jug: meaning is uncertain, perhaps a quote from a popular drinking song

notion: understanding

discernings are lethargied: mental faculties are asleep

shadow: Lear is only a mere shadow of his former self (note in Q he says this about himself)

marks of sovereignty: evidence that he is a king and has daughters for princesses, but this must be false, as surely no daughter would speak so harshly to her father the king.

name: Lear asks sarcastically, "Who are you? You can't be my daughter and treat me so rudely."

admiration: pretended wonder

savour: smells like, resembles

epicurism: living only for pleasure 

desired: requested

disquantity your train: reduce in number your followers

besort: befit

Degenerate: unnatural

will: Lear asks Albany, "Is this your will, too? Are you a part of this insult against me?"

kite: bird of prey

parts: qualities

worships: honors, reputation

engine: tool (lever)  that tore apart the natural affection I had for Cordelia from my heart

gall: bitterness

gate: his head

nature: Lear prays to Nature as a deity whom his unnatural daughter has offended (see comments for 1.2)

derogate: degraded

teem: increase, conceive

spleen: spiteful, ill-humoured

cadent: falling

fret: wear

dotage: senility

clap: at one stroke (like a thunderclap)

fortnight: month

perforce: by force, against my will

untented: undressed (tent refers to a bandage)

fond: foolish

Beweep: if you cry again ...

temper: soften

comfortable: comforting

flay: tear the skin off

visage: face

shape: his kingly role

partial: even though I love you (I must protest)

a fox ... halter: if I could trade my cap for a rope, I would lead this fox (Goneril) to slaughter

politic: good policy (said ironically)

at point: armed

buzz: rumor

enguard: protect (his senile whims)

compact: substantiate

course: nature, disposition

attasked: at fault

harmful mildness: leniency (towards Lear) that causes harm

mar: spoil

event: let's see what the result is

 


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