WORD LISTS

"King Lear" by William Shakespeare, Act 4

February 11, 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
lamentable
The lamentable change is from the best;
The worst returns to laughter. Welcome, then,
Thou unsubstantial air that I embrace.
substantial
The lamentable change is from the best;
The worst returns to laughter. Welcome, then,
Thou unsubstantial air that I embrace.
wanton
As flies to wanton boys are we to th’ gods;
They kill us for their sport.
ordinance
Here, Gloucester is recognizing that the gods have ordinances and order, and he is urging them to punish the humans who try to take too much for themselves. But he says this after almost everything has been taken away from him and right before he tries to take his own life.
Heavens, deal so still:
Let the superfluous and lust-dieted man,
That slaves your ordinance, that will not see
Because he does not feel, feel your power quickly.
hasten
Back, Edmund, to my brother.
Hasten his musters and conduct his powers.
distaff
I must change names at home and give the distaff
Into my husband’s hands.
usurp
My fool usurps my body.
wither
In his use of the word wither Albany is both recognizing and insulting Goneril's power. As a withered branch (because she tore herself away from the tree of Lear), Goneril can be a deadly weapon. But as a withered woman, she would not be attractive to men.
She that herself will sliver and disbranch
From her material sap, perforce must wither
And come to deadly use.
barbarous
A father, and a gracious agèd man,
Whose reverence even the head-lugged bear would lick,
Most barbarous, most degenerate, have you madded.
discern
Milk-livered man,
That bear’st a cheek for blows, a head for wrongs;
Who hast not in thy brows an eye discerning
Thine honor from thy suffering; that not know’st
Fools do those villains pity who are punished
Ere they have done their mischief.
plume
Where’s thy drum?
France spreads his banners in our noiseless land,
With plumèd helm thy state begins to threat,
Whilst thou, a moral fool, sits still and cries
“Alack, why does he so?”
apt
The definition focuses on mental ability but Albany is talking about his physical ability. Because Goneril is a woman, ripping her apart would not be apt ("appropriate"), but if she weren't, Albany claims that he is apt ("able") enough to do it. But Goneril's response doubts that Albany has any violence or strength in him.
Were ’t my fitness
To let these hands obey my blood,
They are apt enough to dislocate and tear
Thy flesh and bones. Howe’er thou art a fiend,
A woman’s shape doth shield thee.
benediction
A sovereign shame so elbows him—his own unkindness,
That stripped her from his benediction, turned her
To foreign casualties, gave her dear rights
To his dog-hearted daughters—these things sting
His mind so venomously that burning shame
Detains him from Cordelia.
furrow
Alack, ’tis he! Why, he was met even now
As mad as the vexed sea, singing aloud,
Crowned with rank fumiter and furrow-weeds,
With hardocks, hemlock, nettles, cuckooflowers,
Darnel, and all the idle weeds that grow
In our sustaining corn.
hemlock
Alack, ’tis he! Why, he was met even now
As mad as the vexed sea, singing aloud,
Crowned with rank fumiter and furrow-weeds,
With hardocks, hemlock, nettles, cuckooflowers,
Darnel, and all the idle weeds that grow
In our sustaining corn.
nettle
Alack, ’tis he! Why, he was met even now
As mad as the vexed sea, singing aloud,
Crowned with rank fumiter and furrow-weeds,
With hardocks, hemlock, nettles, cuckooflowers,
Darnel, and all the idle weeds that grow
In our sustaining corn.
bereaved
What can man’s wisdom
In the restoring his bereavèd sense?
repose
Our foster nurse of nature is repose,
The which he lacks.
remediate
Remediate is an adjective here meaning "restorative, healing." Cordelia wants to bring Lear peace of mind so that he doesn't end up killing himself. To remediate Lear's distress, Cordelia calls upon a doctor, the earth, and a French army.
All blest secrets,
All you unpublished virtues of the earth,
Spring with my tears. Be aidant and remediate
In the good man’s distress. Seek, seek for him,
Lest his ungoverned rage dissolve the life
That wants the means to lead it.
incite
No blown ambition doth our arms incite,
But love, dear love, and our aged father’s right.
ado
Oswald insults Albany, both in the second line and in the use of the word ado to describe the preparations for war. If Albany were a better soldier and commander, he would simply do without any ado.
Madam, with much ado.
Your sister is the better soldier.
dispatch
It was great ignorance, Gloucester’s eyes being out,
To let him live. Where he arrives he moves
All hearts against us. Edmund, I think, is gone,
In pity of his misery, to dispatch
His nighted life; moreover to descry
The strength o’ th’ enemy.
descry
It was great ignorance, Gloucester’s eyes being out,
To let him live. Where he arrives he moves
All hearts against us. Edmund, I think, is gone,
In pity of his misery, to dispatch
His nighted life; moreover to descry
The strength o’ th’ enemy.
chafe
The murmuring surge
That on th’ unnumbered idle pebble chafes
Cannot be heard so high. I’ll look no more
Lest my brain turn and the deficient sight
Topple down headlong.
headlong
The murmuring surge
That on th’ unnumbered idle pebble chafes
Cannot be heard so high. I’ll look no more
Lest my brain turn and the deficient sight
Topple down headlong.
renounce
O you mighty gods! [He kneels.]
This world I do renounce, and in your sights
Shake patiently my great affliction off.
gossamer
Hadst thou been aught but gossamer, feathers, air,
So many fathom down precipitating,
Thou ’dst shivered like an egg; but thou dost breathe,
Hast heavy substance, bleed’st not, speak’st, art sound.
lark
From the dread summit of this chalky bourn.
Look up a-height. The shrill-gorged lark so far
Cannot be seen or heard. Do but look up.
beguile
’Twas yet some comfort
When misery could beguile the tyrant’s rage
And frustrate his proud will.
gauntlet
Draw me a clothier’s yard. Look, look, a mouse! Peace, peace! This piece of toasted cheese will do ’t. There’s my gauntlet; I’ll prove it on a giant.
ague
I am not ague-proof.
wren
The wren goes to ’t, and the small gilded fly does lecher in my sight.
gilded
The wren goes to ’t, and the small gilded fly does lecher in my sight.
pell-mell
To ’t, luxury, pell-mell, for I lack soldiers.
simper
Behold yond simp’ring dame...
apothecary
Give me an ounce of civet, good apothecary; sweeten my imagination.
naught
O ruined piece of nature! This great world
Shall so wear out to naught.
rail
What, art mad? A man may see how this world goes with no eyes. Look with thine ears. See how yond justice rails upon yond simple thief. Hark in thine ear.
lance
As Edgar notices, Lear spits out reasonable truths along with mad rantings. Here, Lear is using images of armored warfare (plate, lance, pierce) to describe how the rich and poor receive different forms of justice: a rich person can sin and walk away unharmed, but if a poor person sins, he will be punished, often by a death sentence.
Through tattered clothes small vices do appear.
Robes and furred gowns hide all. Plate sin with gold,
And the strong lance of justice hurtless breaks.
Arm it in rags, a pygmy’s straw does pierce it.
scurvy
Get thee glass eyes,
And like a scurvy politician
Seem to see the things thou dost not.
stratagem
When we are born, we cry that we are come
To this great stage of fools.—This’ a good block.
It were a delicate stratagem to shoe
A troop of horse with felt. I’ll put ’t in proof,
And when I have stol’n upon these son-in-laws,
Then kill, kill, kill, kill, kill, kill!
untimely
O, untimely death! Death!
temperance
Be by, good madam, when we do awake him.
I doubt not of his temperance.
forlorn
And wast thou fain, poor father,
To hovel thee with swine and rogues forlorn
In short and musty straw?
scald
You do me wrong to take me out o’ th’ grave.
Thou art a soul in bliss, but I am bound
Upon a wheel of fire, that mine own tears
Do scald like molten lead.

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