King Lear

King Lear


William Shakespeare

Teachers and parents! Our Teacher Edition on King Lear makes teaching easy.

Animals Symbol Analysis

Read our modern English translation.
Animals Symbol Icon
From start to finish, King Lear is full of references to animals, usually incorporated into insults and curses or used to describe states of maximum human degradation. (The Fool also frequently tells jokes or sings songs involving non-human creatures.) Lear himself observes, in his rage at Goneril and Regan: "Allow not nature more than nature needs,/ Man's life is cheap as beast's" (2.4.307-8). Throughout the play, animals present a vision of brutal nature to which men can descend, and yet the animals are also held up as less corrupt than men. After all the beasts are just beasts, and are naturally brutal, while the finely dressed Goneril and Regan, along with the other disloyal members of Lear's court, can spout beautiful language about love and honor, and then stab their father in the back.

Animals Quotes in King Lear

The King Lear quotes below all refer to the symbol of Animals. 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
Act 2, scene 3 Quotes
"I will preserve myself, and am bethought
To take the basest and most poorest shape
That ever penury in contempt of man
Brought near to beast."
Related Characters: Edgar (speaker)
Related Symbols: Animals, Clothing and Costumes
Page Number: 2.3.6-9
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 2, scene 4 Quotes
"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:
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:
"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:
Get the entire King Lear LitChart as a printable PDF.
King Lear PDF