King Lear

by

William Shakespeare

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on King Lear can help.

King Lear: Mood 1 key example

Read our modern English translation.
Definition of Mood
The mood of a piece of writing is its general atmosphere or emotional complexion—in short, the array of feelings the work evokes in the reader. Every aspect of a piece of writing... read full definition
The mood of a piece of writing is its general atmosphere or emotional complexion—in short, the array of feelings the work evokes in the reader. Every aspect... read full definition
The mood of a piece of writing is its general atmosphere or emotional complexion—in short, the array of feelings the work evokes... read full definition
Act 1, scene 1
Explanation and Analysis:

King Lear creates a mood of doomed hopelessness in the reader. It is plainly clear, from the very first scene of the play, that King Lear behaves erratically and with impunity, disregarding the advice of his most faithful advisors as he rewards Goneril and Regan and dismisses Cordelia. When Kent makes his case for Cordelia and is quickly rebuffed, it is clear something is amiss:

Kent: Let it fall rather, though the fork invade
The region of my heart. Be Kent unmannerly
When Lear is mad. What wouldst thou do, old man?
Think’st thou that duty shall have dread to speak
When power to flattery bows? To plainness honor’s bound
When majesty falls to folly. Reserve thy state,
And in thy best consideration check
This hideous rashness. Answer my life my judgement,
Thy youngest daughter does not love thee least,
Nor are those empty-hearted whose low sounds
Reverbs no hollowness.

Lear: Kent, on thy life, no more.

Lear answers Kent’s appeal to reason with a threat on his life, and things only get worse from there. As almost everything that can go wrong begins to go wrong—as it must, in a Shakespearean tragedy—the mood darkens even further. In the stormy winter of the play, even the weather enforces this somber mood. As Lear declares in Act 3, Scene 4:

Why, thou wert better in thy grave than to answer with
Thy uncovered body this extremity of the skies.—Is man
No more than this? Consider him well.

The worsening storm, Lear’s descent into madness, and the growing hostility of his former court only exacerbate the depressing and foreboding mood. By the end of the play, as the characters begin to fall dead, complete grief and anguish eclipse the former hopelessness, and this new mood crescendos when King Lear confronts the body of his only loyal daughter, Cordelia, lamenting, "She's gone forever."

Act 3, scene 4
Explanation and Analysis:

King Lear creates a mood of doomed hopelessness in the reader. It is plainly clear, from the very first scene of the play, that King Lear behaves erratically and with impunity, disregarding the advice of his most faithful advisors as he rewards Goneril and Regan and dismisses Cordelia. When Kent makes his case for Cordelia and is quickly rebuffed, it is clear something is amiss:

Kent: Let it fall rather, though the fork invade
The region of my heart. Be Kent unmannerly
When Lear is mad. What wouldst thou do, old man?
Think’st thou that duty shall have dread to speak
When power to flattery bows? To plainness honor’s bound
When majesty falls to folly. Reserve thy state,
And in thy best consideration check
This hideous rashness. Answer my life my judgement,
Thy youngest daughter does not love thee least,
Nor are those empty-hearted whose low sounds
Reverbs no hollowness.

Lear: Kent, on thy life, no more.

Lear answers Kent’s appeal to reason with a threat on his life, and things only get worse from there. As almost everything that can go wrong begins to go wrong—as it must, in a Shakespearean tragedy—the mood darkens even further. In the stormy winter of the play, even the weather enforces this somber mood. As Lear declares in Act 3, Scene 4:

Why, thou wert better in thy grave than to answer with
Thy uncovered body this extremity of the skies.—Is man
No more than this? Consider him well.

The worsening storm, Lear’s descent into madness, and the growing hostility of his former court only exacerbate the depressing and foreboding mood. By the end of the play, as the characters begin to fall dead, complete grief and anguish eclipse the former hopelessness, and this new mood crescendos when King Lear confronts the body of his only loyal daughter, Cordelia, lamenting, "She's gone forever."

Unlock with LitCharts A+