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What is the significance of the quote, "Have more than thou showest, speak less than...

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burabura | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 18, 2011 at 10:55 AM via web

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What is the significance of the quote, "Have more than thou showest, speak less than thou knowest, lend less than thou owest"?

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litteacher8 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 18, 2011 at 3:11 PM (Answer #1)

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In King Lear, this quote is a warning to be sneaky, not showy, to get what you want.

It is not coincidence that the Fool conveys this warning to King Lear in Act I, scene 4.  Fool is a bit of an ironic title.  The battle of the tongue Lear and the Fool engage in relates to the deeper theme of the story, that greed can destroy you.

Let me translate this for you:

Don’t show everyone how much money you have.

Don’t tell everyone everything you know.

Don’t lend money, borrow it!

 Things are not going well with Lear at this point in the story.  He is out of control, and is losing his grip on his kingdom.  Lear's actions are contrary to what he should be doing, quietly calculating how to regain and keep control over his kingdom and family.

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