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from Shakespeare's King Lear

Sneha Victoria

on 8 January 2013

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Transcript of "Nothing"

FROM SHAKESPEARE'S KING LEAR "NOTHING" Cause & Effect King Lear is reaching a point in his life where his old age is restricting his leading abilities. As a result, he decides to divide his kingdom among his three daughters, Regan, Goneril, and Cordelia. In Act 1 scene 1, he requests that they flatter him with praises, and Regan and Goneril do so. However, Cordelia states that nothing can fully describe her feelings for him. Offended and livid, Lear states that “nothing will come of nothing,” meaning that if she chooses to say nothing, he will give her nothing in return. The direct effect of Cordelia’s response is her prompt excommunication, but that in turn causes Lear’s kingdom to fall into ruin. Nothing will come from nothing is what Lear famously says, depicting the important effects of nothing. Identity Throughout the play, King Lear experiences an immense struggle with his identity. No longer being the powerful and respected ruler, Lear fears that he is nothing, meaningless. In act 1 scene 4, Lear’s fool bluntly tells him that his resignation from power also means a resignation from his identity. If Lear is no longer King, he is no longer anything.
Edmund, Gloucester’s bastard son, plans a cruel plot to turn the entire kingdom against his brother, thus ensuring his rule. An initially successful plan, Edmund's brother, Edgar, is forced to disguise himself as a poor beggar. He states that he is nothing, as Edgar no longer exists. This statement puts two meanings to the words "nothing". The first being that Edgar no longer exists, and the second depicting that Edgar's new identity as a beggar is so low, he might as well be nothing. Irony For much of the play, Gloucester, as well as everybody in the kingdom, is led to believe that Edmund is honest and Edgar is the betrayer. Edmund's claim to have no guilt creates immense dramatic irony. In act 3 scene 3, Edmund tells his father that Edgar has betrayed him, though in reality that is not true. Gloucester tells Edgar that he should say nothing to anyone about this betrayal. However, the betrayal has truly been done by Edmund, creating irony.
Another example of irony in the play is, in act 1 scene 1. Lear feels that Cordelia’s lack of response demonstrates betrayal and hatred, and therefore gives all of his land to his other two daughters. This choice is rather ironic, because later on in the play it is revealed that Cordelia truly is loyal to her father, while her sisters are not. In William Shakespeare's monumental tragedy of King Lear, the idea of nothingness and emptiness appears often. Lear, a powerful and respected king, faces a descent of power as his old age causes him to lose his might and strength. Gloucester's deceitful son fools him into severely punishing his innocent son, and ultimately himself. However, "nothing" in King Lear speaks magnitudes. It describes Lear's descent from power, as well as defines his new identity. It also emphasizes the dramatic irony between Gloucester and his sons. The 15 appearances of this word shows the importance Shakespeare places on this one word. Gloucester: "Go to [the Dukes Cornwall and Albany,] say you nothing."

Act 3, scene 3, page 60 Lear: "The vines of France and milk of Burgundy. Strive to be interessed. What can you say to draw. A third more opulent than your sisters? Speak."
Cordelia: "Nothing, my lord."
Act 1 Scene 1 page 4 Kent: "This is nothing, Fool."
Fool: "Then't is like the breath of an unfee'd lawyer, you gave me nothing for't. Can you make no use of nothing, nuncle?"
Lear: "Why, no, boy; nothing can be make out of nothing.
Fool: "Prithee, tell him, so much the rent of his land comes to: he will not believe a fool"
Act 1 Scene 4 page 21 Edgar: "...Escaped the hunt. No port is free, no place
That guard and most unusual vigilance...
...To take the basest and most poorest shape
That ever penury in contempt of man
Brought near to beast. My face I’ll grime with filth,
Blanket my loins, elf all my hair in knots,
And with presented nakedness outface...
n force their charity. 'Poor Turly god!' 'Poor Tom!'—
That’s something yet. Edgar I nothing am."

Act 2, scene 3, page 42 Lear: "What can you say to draw. A third more opulent than your sisters? Speak."
Cordelia: "Nothing, my lord."
Lear: "Nothing?"
Cordelia: "Nothing."Lear: "How? Nothing will come of nothing. Speak again."

Act 1 Scene 1 page 4
Full transcript