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Analysis of the Passage of King Lear


1) The passage is in iambic pentameter. The stress is on the second syllable, and there are five stresses per line. Repetition is used with the word “mouth”: “meet the bear I’th’mouth” (Act 3, sc.4, 11) “Is it not as this mouth should tear this hand” (15). The mouth is a metaphor for aggression, and the bear’s mouth is one and the same as his daughters’ mouths. “In such a night” is repeated in lines 17 and 19, and conveys Lear’s distress at his daughters’ evil behavior. “This contentious storm“ (6)“this pitiless storm” (29) illustrate Lear’s terror , as does the word “tempest” , which on line 16 refers to Lear’s emotional state, and to the actual storm in line 24.

2) Lear is speaking mainly to himself. Kent and the Fool just happen to be there. He has been driven out of Goneril’s house, and finds that Regan will not take him on his terms, but on hers. He realizes his daughters have stripped him of all power.

3) Lear’s realization of his daughters’ betrayal is overwhelming, and dwarfs the dangers of the storm: “But where the greater malady is fixed, the lesser is scarce felt” (9). He vacillates between rage and resignation, grief and despair “But I will punish home: No, I will weep no more. In such a night to shut me out? (17, 18). “Your old kind father, whose frank heart gave all, –O! That way madness lies; let me shun that; No more of that” (20-22). He cannot stand to think of what has really happened, and realizes he has been reduced to nothing by his own daughters.

4) Before this passage, Goneril and Regan joined together to force Lear out of all power, using disdain for his age, humiliation and lies in order to accomplish this. After this passage, Gloucester finds Lear. The Earl tells Kent that Lear’s daughters are out to kill him.

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