WORD LISTS

"King Lear," Vocabulary from Act 5

February 12, 2013
This Shakespearean tragedy deals with a man who believes he has lost everything who finds out you can always lose a little more (etext found here).

Learn this word list that focuses on Lear's personality, actions, and state. Here are links to all of our lists for “King Lear”: Act 1, Act 2, Act 3, Act 4, and Act 5.
reprove
The definition is for "reprove" as a verb but in the example sentence, "self-reproving" is a noun. Usually, a person reproves another for a misdeed or a fault. But at this moment, Albany is scolding himself because he is not sure what to do: sit quietly while a foreign force invades his kingdom? or side with Goneril (whom he now hates) and Edmund (a bastard) against Cordelia and France who are fighting for Lear (whom he loves and respects)?
He's full of alteration
And self- reproving:
forfend
The definition is for the modern meaning of "forfend" as a verb. But in the example sentence, "forfended" is an adjective with the archaic meaning of "forbidden". Regan is questioning Edmund about Goneril. The audience knows from an earlier scene that Edmund is lying when he denies being intimate with Goneril, but the word "forfended" is another clue, since forbidden fruit is often the tastiest.
But have you never found my brother's way
To the forfended place?
miscarry
If you miscarry,
Your business of the world hath so an end,
And machination ceases.
incur
We are not the first
Who with best meaning have incurred the worst.
devour
Lear is trying to encourage Cordelia to be strong here. But his use of the word "devour" doesn't help, because the reason that he gives for Cordelia not to cry is that time will devour the flesh of her eyes so she should not feed her eyes with tears. Because Lear and Cordelia have been captured, they don't have the power to starve Goneril and Regan (who can also be "them"), but they can fight against their own eyes.
Wipe thine eyes.
The good-years shall devour them, flesh and fell,
Ere they shall make us weep.
exalt
Another definition of "exalt" is "raise in rank, character, or status"--which is what Regan (legitimate daughter and heir of a king, and widow of a duke) did to Edmund (bastard son of an earl) by giving him the powers of her position. To undermine Regan, Goneril argues that Edmund does not need Regan to exalt him because he is already gloriously worth praising.
Not so hot.
In his own grace he doth exalt himself
More than in your addition.
patrimony
Take thou my soldiers, prisoners, patrimony.
Dispose of them, of me; the walls is thine.
capital
This definition doesn't actually fit the example sentence. Albany is using the adjective "capital" to describe treason as a crime that is "calling for the death penalty"--but for a crime to deserve that punishment, it must be seen as serious or of "primary importance".
Edmund, I arrest thee
On capital treason.
heinous
If none appear to prove upon thy person
Thy heinous, manifest, and many treasons,
There is my pledge.
canker
Another definition of "canker" is "a pernicious and malign influence that is hard to get rid of"--which can describe the effects of treason on Edgar. But the given definition is more fitting for the example sentence because Edgar is using images of teeth and biting to describe the reason for his lost name.
Know my name is lost
By treason's tooth bare-gnawn and canker-bit:
adversary
Yet am I noble as the adversary
I come to cope.
vanquish
The definition is for "vanquish" as a verb, but "vanquished" is used as an adjective in the example sentence--this makes the meaning the opposite of what is given, since Goneril is arguing that Edmund was not conquered but cheated. This is a desperate attempt to restore honor to a fatally wounded Edmund who is lying at the feet of his opponent.
By the law of war, thou wast not bound to answer
An unknown opposite. Thou art not vanquish'd,
but cozened and beguiled.
cozen
By the law of war, thou wast not bound to answer
An unknown opposite. Thou art not vanquish'd,
but cozened and beguiled.
arraign
Say if I do; the laws are mine, not thine.
Who can arraign me for't?
dissolve
If there be more, more woeful, hold it in,
For I am almost ready to dissolve,
Hearing of this.
puissant
His grief grew puissant and the strings of life
Began to crack.
reprieve
Send thy token of reprieve.
redeem
She lives. If it be so,
It is a chance which does redeem all sorrows
That ever I have felt.
trifle
This is Albany's response to the news that Edmund is dead. Compared to the reported deaths of Gloucester, Regan and Goneril, the visible dead body of Cordelia, and the impending deaths of Kent and Lear, Edmund's death is but a trifle.
That's but a trifle here.
vex
Vex not his ghost.

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