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What is the meaning behind the quote, "and we shall all laugh at the gilded...

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gharw1 | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 2, 2009 at 1:09 PM via web

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What is the meaning behind the quote, "and we shall all laugh at the gilded butterflies"?

I think it a beautiful saying and I am not sure what it means which makes me wonder why I like it if I do not know what it means.

I have a theory that it means similar to the "gilded lilly" saying which means to make superfluous additions to what is already complete. Or to adorn unnecessarily something already beautiful.

Butterflies, like lillies, are already beautiful and to add on to that beauty could ruin it's natural beauty and make it look stupid. This puts some reason behind why Sir Lear may laugh at the butterflies who have been gilded unnessisarily.

Any way I just thought if anyone had their own interpretation of the quote I would love to hear it from someone, eispecially if it is different to my own. Or adds on to my own. Thankyou.

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MaudlinStreet | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted July 2, 2009 at 2:47 PM (Answer #1)

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You have hit the meaning exactly. Lear says this as he & his daughter Cordelia are being led to prison. He has since realized that Regan and Goneril have lied to him and betrayed him, while Cordelia remained loyal. She is the only one who was honest with him, although her answer greatly enraged him at first.

Yet now he is almost looking forward to a simple life with Cordelia, where they can listen to court gossip and laugh at the foolishness of it all. Essentially, he is calling the others prisoners as well, although they may be unaware of it. A gilded butterfly would have unnecessary extravagance, and would also be unable to fly. Thus he and Cordelia will laugh at their pettiness and the fact that they are just as trapped. Here is the full quote:

"We two alone will sing like birds i' the cage…

…so we'll live,

And pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh

At gilded butterflies, and hear poor rogues

Talk of court news; and we'll talk with them too,

Who loses and who wins; who's in, who's out;

And take upon 's the mystery of things,

As if we were God's spies…" --King Lear, Act V, Scene 3

On a side note, I find it interesting that this quote has suddenly found popularity on the body of Megan Fox. It seems rather ironic to me, as many would consider film stars the gilded butterflies of our society. Indeed, those that seek plastic surgery or outrageously expensive clothes to enhance their already natural beauty should think upon this quote.

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