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The line "Nothing will come of nothing" is extremely significant. However, what is the...

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arighnoda | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted September 26, 2012 at 3:09 AM via web

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The line "Nothing will come of nothing" is extremely significant. However, what is the meaning of this line (big picture)?

Overall, what is the relationship between nothing and something in this play. The line above is an example often used yet I cannot find a good explanation for the meaning of it within the context of the whole play, not just the small scene where Lear tells Cordelia that her truth is not welcome.


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William Delaney | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted September 26, 2012 at 9:50 AM (Answer #1)

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I would suggest that there is verbal irony involved in Lear's statement that "Nothing will come of nothing." The two daughters who end up getting the entire kingdom by professing their deep love for their father actually have no feeling for him at all. They feel "nothing" and their words are empty words. Throughout the rest of the play Lear discovers that there was nothing behind their professions of love for him and consequently he is getting nothing from them of any value. He himself ends up with nothing, not even a roof over his head. This is a concrete example of how his nothing came out of his daughters' nothing. He experiences nothing but heartbreak and wretchedness. He is worse off than beggars. He gets help from Cordelia because there is something in this daughter's heart and something in her promises and deeds. She has a genuine love for her father. The same is true of Kent, who follows Lear incognito and tries his best to give him help. It is interesting that Lear's statement that nothing will come of nothing is like an unconscious forecast. He does not say that nothing comes of nothing but that nothing will come of nothing. And nothing that he bargained for and expected ever comes. He has exchanged his whole kingdom for empty words.


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