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King Lear Quotes From The Epic Shakespearean Play

King Lear, which is based on the mythological Lier of Britain, is one of Shakespeare’s biggest achievements. In the play, King Lear gives two of his three daughters both his power and land.

The third daughter is left out because she does not subscribe to telling the king what he wants to hear and flattering him in excess. Throughout the course of the play, Lear becomes destitute and insane.

These King Lear quotes about madness do a great job of highlighting how the king’s mental decline is central to the plot. King Lear is not the only character that touches on the theme of madness. Edgar assumes the mantle of a wandering beggar suffering from mental illness.

Many people wonder what mental illness King Lear suffers from, and the answer varies according to the psychologist. These five psychologists all have a different take on what is going on with King Lear.

king lear quotes

Andreasen attributes it to senile organic brain disease. Kail agrees with that but takes it a step further, claiming that Lear’s diagnosis includes “attacks of what could be described today as acute mania, as demonstrated by his faulty judgment, disorientation and irrational behavior.”

Colman diagnosis Lear with “brief reactive psychosis.” Trethowan sees the king’s actions as signs of depression. Finally, Truskinovsky claims Lear actually suffers from bipolar I disorder.

Regardless of his exact diagnosis, Lear does struggle and ends up becoming a political pawn. Keep reading for some King Lear quotes that demonstrate how power and betrayal are also central themes to the play.

King Lear quotes about madness and madmen

1. This cold night will turn us all to fools and madmen. ― William Shakespeare, King Lear

2. Tis the times’ plague, when madmen lead the blind. ― William Shakespeare, King Lear

3. He’s mad that trusts in the tameness of a wolf, a horse’s health,

a boy’s love, or a whore’s oath. ― William Shakespeare, King Lear

4. O! Let me not be mad, not mad, sweet heaven; keep me in temper; I would not be mad! ― William Shakespeare, King Lear

5. I am a very foolish, fond old man. Fourscore and upward, not an hour more nor less. And to deal plainly, I fear I am not in my perfect mind. ― William Shakespeare, King Lear

6. The Prince of Darkness is a gentleman. [Term used when beggars pretend to be mentally ill] ― William Shakespeare, King Lear

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7. O, Fool, I shall go mad! ― William Shakespeare, King Lear

8. O, matter and impertinency mixed! Reason in madness. ― William Shakespeare, King Lear

9. O Lear, Lear, Lear! / Beat at this gate that let thy folly in (he strikes his head). ― William Shakespeare, King Lear

10. It is the time’s plague when the madmen lead the blind. ― William Shakespeare, King Lear

King Lear quotes about betrayal and tough times

11. Many a true word hath been spoken in jest. ― William Shakespeare, King Lear

12. Now, gods, stand up for bastards! ― William Shakespeare, King Lear

13. And worse I may be yet: the worst is not so long as we can say ‘This is the worst.’ ― William Shakespeare, King Lear

14. How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child! ― William Shakespeare, King Lear

15. I am a man more sinned against than sinning. ― William Shakespeare, King Lear

16. They told me I was everything: ’tis a lie, I am no ague-proof. ― William Shakespeare, King Lear

17. Why should a dog, a horse, a rat have life, and thou no breath at all? ― William Shakespeare, King Lear

18. An you lie, sirrah, we’ll have you whipped. I marvel what kin thou and thy daughters are. They’ll have me whipped for speaking true, thou’lt have me whipped for lying, and sometimes I am whipped for holding my peace― William Shakespeare, King Lear

19. This is the excellent foppery of the world, that, when we are sick in fortune,–often the surfeit of our own behavior―we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and the stars: as if we were villains by necessity. ― William Shakespeare, King Lear

20. The weight of this sad time we must obey; Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say. ― William Shakespeare, King Lear

King Lear quotes about power and truth

21. As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods. They kill us for their sport. ― William Shakespeare, King Lear

22. Have more than thou showest. Speak less than thou knowest. Lend less than thou owest. ― William Shakespeare, King Lear

23. Get thee glass eyes, and like a scurvy politician, seem to see the things thou dost not. ― William Shakespeare, King Lear

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24. When thou dost ask me blessing, I’ll kneel down and ask of thee forgiveness. ― William Shakespeare, King Lear

25. Think’st thou that, that duty shall have dread to speak when power to flattery bows? ― William Shakespeare, King Lear

26. Only we shall retain the name and all th’addition to a king. ― William Shakespeare, King Lear

27. Come not between the dragon and his wrath! ― William Shakespeare, King Lear

28. I am ashamed, that thou hast power to shake my manhood thus. ― William Shakespeare, King Lear

29. Authority. What services canst thou do? I can keep honest counsel, ride, run, mar a curious tale in telling it, and deliver a plain message bluntly. ― William Shakespeare, King Lear

Short and powerful King Lear quotes

31. When we are born, we cry that we are come to this great stage of fools. ― William Shakespeare, King Lear

32. Nothing will come of nothing: speak again. ― William Shakespeare, King Lear

33. Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say. ― William Shakespeare, King Lear

34. Thou shouldst not have been old till thou hadst been wise. ― William Shakespeare, King Lear

35. So distribution should undo excess, and each man have enough. ― William Shakespeare, King Lear

36. Men must endure their going hence, even as their coming hither. ― William Shakespeare, King Lear

37. We that are young shall never see so much, nor live so long. ― William Shakespeare, King Lear

38. Who is it that can tell me who I am? ― William Shakespeare, King Lear

39. When the mind’s free, the body’s delicate. ― William Shakespeare, King Lear

40. Jesters do oft prove prophets. ― William Shakespeare, King Lear

Lines from Cordelia in these King Lear quotes

41. Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave my heart into my mouth. I love your majesty according to my bond, no more nor less. ― William Shakespeare, King Lear

42. If for I want that glib and oily art, to speak and purpose not, since what I well inten I’ll do’t before I speak. ― William Shakespeare, King Lear

43. O, dear father, It is thy business that I go about. ― William Shakespeare, King Lear

44. What shall Cordelia speak? Love and be silent. [Addressing herself in the third person] ― William Shakespeare, King Lear

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45.The jewels of our father, with washed eyes. Cordelia leaves you. [Addressing herself in the third person] ― William Shakespeare, King Lear

46. Time shall unfold what plighted cunning hides. Who cover faults, at last shame them derides. Well, may you prosper! ― William Shakespeare, King Lear

47. My mourning and important tears hath pitied. No blown ambition doth our arms incite, but love, dear love, and our ag’d father’s right. Soon may I hear and see him! ― William Shakespeare, King Lear

48. O, you kind gods, cure this great breach in his abused nature! Th’ untun’d and jarring senses. O, wind up of this child-changed father! ― William Shakespeare, King Lear

49. O my dear father, restoration hang thy medicine on my lips, and let this kiss repair those violent harms that my two sisters have in thy reverence made! ― William Shakespeare, King Lear

50. We are not the first who with best meaning have incurr’d the worst. For thee, oppressed king, am I cast down. Myself could else outfrown false Fortune’s frown. Shall we not see these daughters and these sisters? ― William Shakespeare, King Lear

The first known performance of this Shakespearean play was on St. Stephen’s Day in 1606. The play was revised after the English Restoration because some audiences were not fans of the dark and depressing tone.

The play has been widely adapted into several movies with both the title role and the supporting roles being coveted by accomplished actors. Anthony Hopkins played the title role of King Lear in the 2018 version created by the BBC and Amazon.

Hopkins is joined by an all star cast in this modern day retelling of the tale of a king driven mad by his own actions. Emma Thompson stars as his eldest daughter Goneril while Emily Watson appears as his middle daughter Regan.

These are the two daughters who go out of their way to flatter their father’s ego, and winning his favor. His youngest (and favorite) daughter, Cordelia, is played by Florence Pugh. Let us know what you thought of the latest version of King Lear, or if you have some favorite King Lear quotes that didn’t make the list, using the comment section below.

Stephanie Kirby
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