King Lear

King Lear Character Analysis

Read our modern English translation.
The aging king of Britain and tragic hero of the play. Lear, who is used to complete obedience from everyone around him, makes two related major errors: giving up of political responsibility by transferring power to his daughters; and trusting the flattering Goneril and Regan over the plainspoken, but true, Cordelia. Despite his flaws he is able to maintain the loyalty of certain subjects, particularly Kent and Gloucester. However, these will not be enough to save him from madness and death.

King Lear Quotes in King Lear

The King Lear quotes below are all either spoken by King Lear or refer to King Lear. 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
"Nothing will come of nothing."
Related Characters: King Lear (speaker)
Page Number: 1.1.99
Explanation and Analysis:

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"Yet he hath ever but slenderly known himself."
Related Characters: Regan (speaker), King Lear
Page Number: 1.1.339-340
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 1, scene 3 Quotes
"Old fools are babes again."
Related Characters: Goneril (speaker), King Lear
Page Number: 1.3.20
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 1, scene 4 Quotes
"Thou hast pared thy wit o' both sides and left nothing in the middle."
Related Characters: Fool (speaker), King Lear
Page Number: 1.4.191-192
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 2, scene 4 Quotes
"O sir, you are old.
Nature I you stands on the very verge
Of his confine."
Related Characters: Regan (speaker), King Lear
Page Number: 2.4.164-166
Explanation and Analysis:

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"O, reason not the need! Our basest beggars
Are in the poorest thing superfluous.
Allow not nature more than nature needs,
Man's life is cheap as beast's."
Related Characters: King Lear (speaker)
Related Symbols: Animals
Page Number: 2.4.304-307
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 3, scene 2 Quotes
"The art of our necessities is strange
And can make vile things precious."
Related Characters: King Lear (speaker)
Page Number: 3.2.76-77
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 3, scene 4 Quotes
"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? O I have taken
Too little care of this."
Related Characters: King Lear (speaker)
Page Number: 3.4.32-37
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.

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Act 3, scene 6 Quotes
"All the power of his wits have given way to his impatience."
Related Characters: Kent (speaker), King Lear
Page Number: 3.6.4-5
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 4, scene 6 Quotes
"Gloucester: Oh let me kiss that hand!
Lear: Let me wipe it first; it smells of mortality."
Related Characters: King Lear (speaker), Gloucester (speaker)
Page Number: 4.6.147-148
Explanation and Analysis:

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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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"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.

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"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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King Lear Character Timeline in King Lear

The timeline below shows where the character King Lear 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... (full context)
Act 1, scene 3
Fathers, Children, and Siblings Theme Icon
Authority and Order Theme Icon
Disintegration, Chaos, Nothingness Theme Icon
At Goneril's palace, where Lear has been spending his first month after giving up power, Goneril complains to her steward,... (full context)
Act 1, scene 4
Authority and Order Theme Icon
Fooling and Madness Theme Icon
Blindness and Insight Theme Icon
Kent returns in the disguise of Caius, a commoner, to offer his services to Lear. Lear accepts. He sends Kent to fetch his Fool. (full context)
Act 1, scene 5
Authority and Order Theme Icon
Lear explains what happened with Goneril to Kent (who is still disguised as Cauis), and then... (full context)
Act 2, scene 4
Fathers, Children, and Siblings Theme Icon
Authority and Order Theme Icon
Disintegration, Chaos, Nothingness Theme Icon
Fooling and Madness Theme Icon
Lear, his Fool, a Gentleman, and his other followers arrive at Gloucester's castle. Confused not to... (full context)
Act 3, scene 1
Fathers, Children, and Siblings Theme Icon
Authority and Order Theme Icon
Disintegration, Chaos, Nothingness Theme Icon
Fooling and Madness Theme Icon
Kent, out looking for Lear, runs into a Gentleman. The Gentleman describes seeing Lear out in the storm, from which... (full context)
Act 3, scene 2
Authority and Order Theme Icon
Disintegration, Chaos, Nothingness Theme Icon
Old Age Theme Icon
Fooling and Madness Theme Icon
Blindness and Insight Theme Icon
Lear rages out in the storm, calling upon it to "crack nature's molds" and destroy everything... (full context)
Act 3, scene 3
Fathers, Children, and Siblings Theme Icon
Authority and Order Theme Icon
Disintegration, Chaos, Nothingness Theme Icon
Blindness and Insight Theme Icon
...received a letter with further information, too dangerous to be spoken, which will eventually bring Lear revenge. Gloucester asks Edmund to distract Cornwall while he sneaks off to aid Lear. (full context)
Act 3, scene 4
Fathers, Children, and Siblings Theme Icon
Authority and Order Theme Icon
Disintegration, Chaos, Nothingness Theme Icon
Fooling and Madness Theme Icon
Blindness and Insight Theme Icon
Lear, Kent and the Fool arrive at the hovel. Lear still insists that the "tempest in... (full context)
Act 3, scene 6
Fathers, Children, and Siblings Theme Icon
Authority and Order Theme Icon
Fooling and Madness Theme Icon
Blindness and Insight Theme Icon
...the house to which he has shown them, Kent thanks Gloucester, and then reports that Lear has gone entirely mad. Gloucester exits as Lear, the Fool, and Edgar enter, raving together.... (full context)
Act 3, scene 7
Fathers, Children, and Siblings Theme Icon
Authority and Order Theme Icon
Disintegration, Chaos, Nothingness Theme Icon
...too brutal for a son to behold. Oswald arrives to report that, thanks to Gloucester, Lear has been carried away to Dover. (full context)
Act 4, scene 1
Fathers, Children, and Siblings Theme Icon
Authority and Order Theme Icon
Disintegration, Chaos, Nothingness Theme Icon
...saw such a mad beggar who "made [him] think man a worm" (37). He has learned, he says, about human lowliness: "As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods;/... (full context)
Act 4, scene 2
Authority and Order Theme Icon
Disintegration, Chaos, Nothingness Theme Icon
...who informed against him. Albany vows that he will thank Gloucester for his love toward Lear and will revenge his lost eyes. He summons the Messenger to give him more information. (full context)
Act 4, scene 3
Fathers, Children, and Siblings Theme Icon
Fooling and Madness Theme Icon
Blindness and Insight Theme Icon
Kent then explains that Lear is in the camp and is occasionally sane. However, he adds, Lear refuses to see... (full context)
Act 4, scene 4
Fathers, Children, and Siblings Theme Icon
Authority and Order Theme Icon
...raving "mad as the vexed sea" (4.4.2). She then promises the doctor that whoever cures Lear can have everything she owns. The doctor responds that, in order to be cured, the... (full context)
Act 4, scene 7
Fathers, Children, and Siblings Theme Icon
Authority and Order Theme Icon
Blindness and Insight Theme Icon
...nature" (16-7). The Doctor says that they will wake him up. Two servants enter, carrying Lear on a chair. The Doctor cues for music to be played. Cordelia kisses her father... (full context)
Act 5, scene 1
Fathers, Children, and Siblings Theme Icon
Authority and Order Theme Icon
Disintegration, Chaos, Nothingness Theme Icon
...against their common enemy of the French, not because he approves of their treatment of Lear and Gloucester, he and Goneril join Edmund and Regan. Edmund says he will join Albany... (full context)
Act 5, scene 2
Fathers, Children, and Siblings Theme Icon
Blindness and Insight Theme Icon
...a retreat, 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... (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... (full context)