" /> King Lear Betrayal Quotes - 33 Important Quotes with Analysis

King Lear Betrayal Quotes

Let it be so. Thy truth, then, be thy dower,
For by the sacred radiance of the sun,
The mysteries of Hecate and the night,
By all the operation of the orbs
From whom we do exist, and cease to be,
Here I disclaim all my paternal care,
Propinquity, and property of blood,
And as a stranger to my heart and me
Hold thee, from this, for ever. The barbarous Scythian,
Or he that makes his generation messes
To gorge his appetite, shall to my bosom
Be as well neighboured, pitied, and relieved
As thou my sometime daughter.

– William Shakespeare

King Lear, Act 1, Scene 1. Lear flies into a rage at Cordelia’s stubborn refusal to flatter him and play ball with his love test charade. Her truth will be her only inheritance, he tells her. He calls on the natural forces of the sun, moon and planets to assist in his disowning of Cordelia. Lear promises to treat her "as a stranger to my heart" (simile). He compares his daughter to a "barbarous Scythian" who eats their own children. When he says "Here I disclaim all my paternal care" the tragedy of the play starts to unfold, as Lear gives up his fatherly care and love for her. The first major betrayal in the play is Lear’s betrayal of his daughter Cordelia. This is a decision which will have far-reaching and serious consequences for Lear. And it is one he will later learn to regret when his two other daughters treat him exactly this way. They treat him with unkindness and show him no compassion, just as he does with Cordelia. It is ironic that the daughter who loves King Lear most and the one who respects him most to tell the truth is the one who is disinherited and banished from her own country. This betrayal and cruel abuse of power turns out to be Lear’s greatest folly. His astounding blindness to the true worth of Cordelia and her sisters is his most unforgiveable case of choosing appearances over reality.

I’ll tell thee.
[To Goneril.] Life and death! I am ashamed
That thou hast power to shake my manhood thus,
That these hot tears, which break from me perforce,
Should make thee worth them. Blasts and fogs upon thee!
Th’ untented woundings of a father’s curse
Pierce every sense about thee! Old fond eyes,
Beweep this cause again, I’ll pluck ye out
And cast you with the waters that you loose
To temper clay.

– William Shakespeare

King Lear, Act 1, Scene 4. Lear, asked by Albany what’s the matter, responds with this speech. Feeling betrayed, he tells Goneril that he is ashamed she has the power to shake his "manhood" so much that he is reduced to tears – Goneril does this by cutting his retinue of knights. He curses her with incurable pain and vows that if his old eyes should weep again because of her, he will pluck them out, foreshadowing Gloucester’s blinding. It was Lear’s blindness to the true character of Goneril and sister Regan that led him abdicating to them. The English Shakespearean actor Corin Redgrave said: "Lear has a great fear of the feminine side of his nature. At every critical juncture in the conflict with his daughters, his anxiety and dread are that he will betray his masculinity by crying, and when that happens he is devastated. Notice also how this speech, with its violent imagery of blinding, in this case self-inflicted, anticipates the blinding of Gloucester, who is horribly punished for taking pity on Lear – pity and mercy being feminine qualities."
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