WORD LISTS

"King Lear" by William Shakespeare, Act 3

February 9, 2013
In this tragedy, King Lear's plan to divide his kingdom between his three daughters leads to his downfall when he misjudges their true feelings. Read the full text here.

Here are links to our lists for the play: Act 1, Act 2, Act 3, Act 4, Act 5
impetuous
Impetuous can also mean "characterized by undue haste and lack of thought" (a synonym for rash). This would make the battle between Lear and Mother Nature seem almost like justice because a rash man is being thrashed by a rash wind. But in the example sentence, the words blasts, rage and fury connect to violence and to the idea of an impetus, which is a force that moves something (e.g. Lear's white hairs) along.
Contending with the fretful elements;
Bids the wind blow the earth into the sea
Or swell the curlèd waters ’bove the main,
That things might change or cease; tears his white hair,
Which the impetuous blasts with eyeless rage
Catch in their fury and make nothing of;
Strives in his little world of man to outscorn
The to-and-fro conflicting wind and rain.
cataract
A cataract is also "a disease that involves the clouding of the lens of the eye" and may refer to the idea of dysfunctional eyes as Lear is loses sight of reality and Gloucester actually loses his eyes.
Blow winds, and crack your cheeks! Rage, blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drenched our steeples, drowned the cocks.
cleave
Lear is calling for lightning, which can cleave or separate oak trees, to burn his head. Once the cleaver of kingdoms and relationships, Lear now wants to be cloven.
You sulph’rous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers of oak- cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head. And thou, all-shaking thunder,
Strike flat the thick rotundity o’ th’ world.
rotundity
You sulph’rous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers of oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head. And thou, all-shaking thunder,
Strike flat the thick rotundity o’ th’ world.
servile
Another definition of servile is "submissive or fawning in attitude or behavior" — this also fits the example sentence, especially when you think about the insults that Kent threw at Goneril's servant.
Here I stand your slave,
A poor, infirm, weak, and despised old man.
But yet I call you servile ministers,
That will with two pernicious daughters join
Your high-engendered battles ’gainst a head
So old and white as this.
pernicious
Here I stand your slave,
A poor, infirm, weak, and despised old man.
But yet I call you servile ministers,
That will with two pernicious daughters join
Your high-engendered battles ’gainst a head
So old and white as this.
engender
Here I stand your slave,
A poor, infirm, weak, and despised old man.
But yet I call you servile ministers,
That will with two pernicious daughters join
Your high- engendered battles ’gainst a head
So old and white as this.
affliction
Man’s nature cannot carry
Th’ affliction nor the fear.
divulge
Tremble, thou wretch,
That hast within thee undivulgèd crimes
Unwhipped of justice.
covert
Caitiff, to pieces shake,
That under covert and convenient seeming
Has practiced on man’s life.
hovel
Gracious my lord, hard by here is a hovel.
Some friendship will it lend you ’gainst the tempest.
tempest
Gracious my lord, hard by here is a hovel.
Some friendship will it lend you ’gainst the tempest.
heretic
When priests are more in word than matter,
When brewers mar their malt with water,
When nobles are their tailors’ tutors,
No heretics burned but wenches’ suitors,
When every case in law is right,
No squire in debt, nor no poor knight;
When slanders do not live in tongues,
Nor cutpurses come not to throngs,
When usurers tell their gold i’ th’ field,
And bawds and whores do churches build,
Then shall the realm of Albion
Come to great confusion
privy
We must incline to the King. I will look him and privily relieve him.
contentious
Thou think’st ’tis much that this contentious storm
Invades us to the skin.
malady
But where the greater malady is fix'd,
The lesser is scarce felt.
filial
Filial ingratitude!
Is it not as this mouth should tear this hand
For lifting food to ’t? But I will punish home.
pelt
The definition is for pelt as a verb but it is used as a noun in the example sentence. Although another definition of pelt is "rain heavily" (which is happening in the scene, because Lear is feeling like a victim), the image of the rain as missiles (e.g. arrows) attacking him and other poor houseless wretches is more powerfully fitting.
Poor naked wretches, wheresoe’er you are,
That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm,
How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides,
Your looped and windowed raggedness defend you
From seasons such as these?
physic
O, I have ta’en
Too little care of this. Take physic, pomp.
fathom
A fathom is 6 feet — Edgar is yelling that the water inside the shed is nine feet deep.
Fathom and half, fathom and half!
Poor Tom!
ford
Who gives anything to Poor Tom, whom the foul fiend hath led through fire and through flame, through ford and whirlpool, o’er bog and quagmire...
bog
Who gives anything to Poor Tom, whom the foul fiend hath led through fire and through flame, through ford and whirlpool, o’er bog and quagmire...
quagmire
Who gives anything to Poor Tom, whom the foul fiend hath led through fire and through flame, through ford and whirlpool, o’er bog and quagmire...
pendulous
Now all the plagues that in the pendulous air
Hang fated o’er men’s faults light on thy daughters!
extremity
Thou wert better in a grave than to answer with thy uncovered body this extremity of the skies.
troth
Swithold footed thrice the ’old,
He met the nightmare and her ninefold,
Bid her alight,
And her troth plight,
And aroint thee, witch, aroint thee.
plight
Swithold footed thrice the ’old,
He met the nightmare and her ninefold,
Bid her alight,
And her troth plight,
And aroint thee, witch, aroint thee.
injunction
My duty cannot suffer
T’ obey in all your daughters’ hard commands.
Though their injunction be to bar my doors
And let this tyrannous night take hold upon you,
Yet have I ventured to come seek you out
And bring you where both fire and food is ready.
importune
Importune him once more to go, my lord.
censure
Edmund is pretending to be afraid of censure in order to get Cornwall's trust and protection. But the consequences of Edmund's betrayals will be a lot harsher than a formal rebuke. In the example sentence, nature does not refer to either Mother Nature or Edmund's nature; it refers to the natural bond between a father and a child which, as Gloucester's illegitimate second son, Edmund never felt and has no trouble betraying in order to get what he thinks he deserves.
How, my lord, I may be censured, that nature thus gives way to loyalty, something fears me to think of.
disposition
I now perceive it was not altogether your brother’s evil disposition made him seek his death, but a provoking merit set awork by a reprovable badness in himself.
persevere
I will persevere in my course of loyalty, though the conflict be sore between that and my blood.
yeoman
Prithee, nuncle, tell me whether a madman be a gentleman or a yeoman.
warp
And here’s another whose warped looks proclaim
What store her heart is made on.
cur
LEAR: The little dogs and all,
Tray, Blanch, and Sweetheart, see, they bark at me.
EDGAR: Tom will throw his head at them.—Avaunt, you curs!
mongrel
Be thy mouth or black or white,
Tooth that poisons if it bite,
Mastiff, greyhound, mongrel grim,
Hound or spaniel, brach, or lym,
Bobtail tike, or trundle-tail,
Tom will make him weep and wail
dally
Take up thy master.
If thou shouldst dally half an hour, his life,
With thine and all that offer to defend him,
Stand in assurèd loss.
oppressed
Oppressèd nature sleeps.
This rest might yet have balmed thy broken sinews,
Which, if convenience will not allow,
Stand in hard cure.
sufferance
When we our betters see bearing our woes,
We scarcely think our miseries our foes.
Who alone suffers suffers most i’ th’ mind,
Leaving free things and happy shows behind.
But then the mind much sufferance doth o’erskip
When grief hath mates and bearing fellowship.
defile
Mark the high noises, and thyself bewray
When false opinion, whose wrong thoughts defile thee,
In thy just proof repeals and reconciles thee.
pinion
Go seek the traitor Gloucester.
Pinion him like a thief; bring him before us.
ignoble
By the kind gods, ’tis most ignobly done
To pluck me by the beard.
anoint
Because I would not see thy cruel nails
Pluck out his poor old eyes, nor thy fierce sister
In his anointed flesh stick boarish fangs.
quench
The sea, with such a storm as his bare head
In hell-black night endured, would have buoyed up
And quenched the stellèd fires;
Yet, poor old heart, he holp the heavens to rain.
rogue
Let’s follow the old earl and get the Bedlam
To lead him where he would. His roguish madness
Allows itself to anything.

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