CORDELIA: (to LEAR) I yet beseech your majesty, if for I want that glib and oily art to speak and purpose not-since that I well intend, I’ll do’t before I speak-that you make known it is no vicious blot, murder, or foulness, no unchaste action or dishonored step that hath deprived me of your grace and favor. But even for want of that for which I am richer: A still;-soliciting eye and such a tongue As I am glad I have not, though not to have it hath lost me in your liking.
FRANCE: It is no more but this-a tardiness in nature, which often leaves the history unspoken that it intends to do? My lord Burgundy, What say to the lady? Love’s not love when it is mingled with regards that stands aloof from the entire point. Will you have her? She is herself a dowry.
Cordelia explains to her superficial and unknowing father that he has mistaken love with flattery and words absent from truth or feeling. Although the cunning Goneril and Regan have knowingly showered King Lear with compliments and thoughts that will garner his trust, Cordelia dismisses these as superficial and shallow. She argues that although her answer is short and simple, it is brimming with truth and certainty and she shows her love through her actions not her words. Although Cordelia is upset that King Lear has banished her from his good favors, she is satisfied that she has chosen the path of truth and purity rather than greed and money, unlike her sisters. Cordelia hints that she is the true person that has Lear’s interests at mind, and the real interest of her sisters is money. France is shocked that King Lear has dismissed Cordelia just because she did not say the words he wanted her to say. He argues that love does not include “outside matters” such as greed, envy, lust, etc. It is pure and un-boundless. He declares that Cordelia herself is a dowry, commending her on taking the path of riotousness.
This passage speaks to me because it touches on the subject of how money and power can complicate and corrupt the meaning of true love. This subject can be connected to modern day in regards to how families’ fight over money left behind from loved ones who have passed away. We should note that in this passage Cordelia is being portrayed as a protagonist as people such as France, and Kent are supporting and applauding her on her ideas. This passage has broader implications and significance as the author may be hinting at the purpose of his play: elucidating the true meaning of love and how humans corrupt it.
King Lear was written in 1604-1605 and around this time period, the monarchy (including Elizabeth I and James VI and I) reigned. In the patriarchal society of 1600’s England, a society’s governance, and the distribution of power were under constant scrutiny. During Elizabeth I’s reign, the familial claim to the throne and gender role of a woman as a leader, were of central points of discussion. King Lear touches on both the family patriarchal dynamics as well as the patriarchal dynamics of ruling a kingdom. Perhaps Shakespeare was trying to hint that if people acted more like Cordellia, conflict and wars would be less rampant or maybe King Lear, was Shakespeare’s way of pointing out how he does not like the patriarchal society he lives in. If this is so, Shakespeare may be alluding to the fact that monarchy is corrupt and a better way of governance should be adopted instead. Being informed about the history of this time period will help us understand some of King Lear’s themes including, family conflict, the problems that come with giving up/or leaving behind power, and the problems that come with monarchy and a patriarchal society. Learn more about the history of this time period here.