King Lear

King Lear


William Shakespeare

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Authority and Order Theme Analysis

Read our modern English translation.
Themes and Colors
Fathers, Children, and Siblings Theme Icon
Authority and Order Theme Icon
Disintegration, Chaos, Nothingness Theme Icon
Old Age Theme Icon
Fooling and Madness Theme Icon
Blindness and Insight Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in King Lear, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Authority and Order Theme Icon

At the beginning of the play, Lear is an authority figure, embodying order in his own person and commanding it from his family and followers. (This is how he is able to compel his elder two daughters to participate in the dramatic ceremony dividing the kingdom by professing their absolute love on cue, precisely when he demands it; this is why Gloucester, Kent, and others respectfully watch the ceremony unfold, despite thinking that Lear's plan to give up power is a bad idea.) Just as the father-child bonds discussed above encompass both a private and a public dimension, authority and order in this play exist at both the level of the family and the level of the nation.

Throughout the tragedy, Lear and other characters also repeatedly invoke the ideas of natural and divine order. Lear appeals to the idea of divine justice when his children treat him unjustly (e.g. after his final quarrel with Goneril and Regan: "O heavens,/ If you do love old men […] Send down and take my part" [2.4.218-221]). Gloucester similarly calls out to the gods after he has been betrayed and blinded in 3.7. Meanwhile, nature in the play seems to mirror the political chaos of the play, particularly in the form of the brutal storm that rages even as Lear himself, the former embodiment of order in the kingdom, rages in his own madness.

Related Themes from Other Texts
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Authority and Order Quotes in King Lear

Below you will find the important quotes in King Lear related to the theme of Authority and Order.
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:
Act 1, scene 2 Quotes
"These late eclipses in the sun and moon portend no good to us."
Related Characters: Gloucester (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Stars, Heavens, and the Gods
Page Number: 1.2.109-110
Explanation and Analysis:
"As if we were villains on necessity; fools by heavenly compulsion."
Related Characters: Edmund (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Stars, Heavens, and the Gods
Page Number: 1.2.128-129
Explanation and Analysis:
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:
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:
Act 4, scene 1 Quotes
"The worst is not
So long as we can say 'This is the worst.'"
Related Characters: Edgar (speaker)
Page Number: 4.1.30-31
Explanation and Analysis: