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)
asleep: since no one seems to be responding to his requests quickly enough
wont: accustomed to
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
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
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
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
Whoop, Jug: meaning is uncertain, perhaps a quote from a popular drinking song
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
disquantity your train: reduce in number your followers
will: Lear asks Albany, "Is this your will, too? Are you a part of this insult against me?"
kite: bird of prey
worships: honors, reputation
engine: tool (lever) that tore apart the natural affection I had for Cordelia from my heart
gate: his head
nature: Lear prays to Nature as a deity whom his unnatural daughter has offended (see comments for 1.2)
teem: increase, conceive
spleen: spiteful, ill-humoured
clap: at one stroke (like a thunderclap)
perforce: by force, against my will
untented: undressed (tent refers to a bandage)
Beweep: if you cry again ...
flay: tear the skin off
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
enguard: protect (his senile whims)
course: nature, disposition
attasked: at fault
harmful mildness: leniency (towards Lear) that causes harm
event: let's see what the result is
Back to Act I, scene iv
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