King Lear

Cordelia Character Analysis

Read our modern English translation.
Lear's youngest daughter, whom he disowns when she refuses to flatter him, as her sisters do, during the ceremony in which he hands over power. Cordelia remains loyal to Lear despite his unjust harshness to her at the beginning of the play and even seems prepared to forgive her treacherous sisters at the end. Other characters who do not betray Lear—particularly Kent—admire Cordelia for her virtue and mildness.

Cordelia Quotes in King Lear

The King Lear quotes below are all either spoken by Cordelia or refer to Cordelia. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Fathers, Children, and Siblings Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Simon & Schuster edition of King Lear published in 2004.
Act 1, scene 1 Quotes
"I want that glib and oily art
To speak and purpose not."
Related Characters: Cordelia (speaker)
Page Number: 1.1.258-259
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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Act 5, scene 3 Quotes
"No, no, no, no. Come, let's away to prison.
We two alone will sing like birds in the cage."
Related Characters: King Lear (speaker), Cordelia
Related Symbols: Animals
Page Number: 5.3.9-10
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occ

"Howl, howl, howl! O, you are men of stones!
Had I your tongues and eyes, I'd use them so
That heaven's vault should crack. She's gone forever."
Related Characters: King Lear (speaker), Cordelia
Related Symbols: The Stars, Heavens, and the Gods
Page Number: 5.3.308-310
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

"No, no, no life?
Why should a dog, a horse, a rat have life,
And thou no breath at all? Thou'lt come no more,
Never, never, never, never, never."
Related Characters: King Lear (speaker), Cordelia
Related Symbols: Animals
Page Number: 5.3.369-372
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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Cordelia Character Timeline in King Lear

The timeline below shows where the character Cordelia appears in King Lear. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, scene 1
Fathers, Children, and Siblings Theme Icon
Authority and Order Theme Icon
Disintegration, Chaos, Nothingness Theme Icon
Old Age Theme Icon
Lear enters with Albany, Cornwall, Goneril, Regan, Cordelia, and their attendants. Having sent Gloucester to fetch Cordelia's suitors, the lords of France and... (full context)
Act 1, scene 2
Fathers, Children, and Siblings Theme Icon
Authority and Order Theme Icon
Disintegration, Chaos, Nothingness Theme Icon
...observed disorder in the skies that predicts all the chaos that has happened with Lear, Cordelia, Kent, and now him: "these late eclipses in the sun and moon portend no good... (full context)
Act 1, scene 4
Fathers, Children, and Siblings Theme Icon
Authority and Order Theme Icon
Disintegration, Chaos, Nothingness Theme Icon
Blindness and Insight Theme Icon
...Lear sends the Knight to fetch his Fool. Both Knight and Lear observe that since Cordelia's departure for France the Fool has been melancholy and sad. Oswald enters again. Lear summons... (full context)
Act 2, scene 2
Fathers, Children, and Siblings Theme Icon
Authority and Order Theme Icon
...on stage, Kent takes out a letter, which, he explains to the audience, is from Cordelia. "Nothing almost sees miracles but misery" (180-1). The letter says that Cordelia has been informed... (full context)
Act 3, scene 1
Authority and Order Theme Icon
Disintegration, Chaos, Nothingness Theme Icon
Blindness and Insight Theme Icon
...real identity, he gives the Gentleman his purse, containing a ring, which he should show Cordelia who will be at Dover. Kent says she will recognize it. (full context)
Act 4, scene 3
Fathers, Children, and Siblings Theme Icon
In the French war camp, Kent asks a Gentleman about Cordelia's reaction to the letter that he sent in 3.1. The Gentleman reports that she was... (full context)
Act 4, scene 4
Fathers, Children, and Siblings Theme Icon
Authority and Order Theme Icon
Cordelia, attended by the Gentleman from 4.3 and a Doctor sends out a search party of... (full context)
Act 4, scene 6
Disintegration, Chaos, Nothingness Theme Icon
Fooling and Madness Theme Icon
Blindness and Insight Theme Icon
...and calls out to him, asking to kiss the king's hand. Lear, however, continues raving. Cordelia's gentleman and a group of attendants enter. Spotting Lear, they entreat him to come to... (full context)
Act 4, scene 7
Fathers, Children, and Siblings Theme Icon
Authority and Order Theme Icon
Blindness and Insight Theme Icon
Back in the French camp, Cordelia thanks Kent for all the service that he has shown her father and asks him... (full context)
Act 5, scene 1
Fathers, Children, and Siblings Theme Icon
Blindness and Insight Theme Icon
...further reveals that, if the British are victorious, although Albany wishes to spare Lear and Cordelia, he never will. (full context)
Act 5, scene 2
Fathers, Children, and Siblings Theme Icon
Blindness and Insight Theme Icon
...Edgar appears onstage again. He reports that the French forces have lost and Lear and Cordelia have been taken prisoner. Gloucester says that he would like to die and rot on... (full context)
Act 5, scene 3
Authority and Order Theme Icon
Disintegration, Chaos, Nothingness Theme Icon
Edmund orders that the captured Lear and Cordelia be taken away to prison. Cordelia, speaking with Lear, wonders if they should ask to... (full context)