What does the following quote from King Lear mean?
If yet beseech your majesty-
If for I want that glib and oily art,
To speak and purpose not--since what I well intend,
I'll do't before I speak--that you make known
It is no vicious blot, murder, or foulness,
No unchaste action, or dishonored step,
That hath deprived meof your grace and favor;
But even for want of that for which I am richer,
A still-soliciting eye, and such tongue
As I am glad I have not, though not to have it
Hath lost me in your liking.
1 Answer | Add Yours
It is hard not to hear these words from Cordelia, said to her beloved father, Lear, and not to scream silently at Lear in the hope of making him realise just how stupid he is being! Cordelia, having refused to verbally flatter her father with words, as her sisters Regan and Goneril have so insincerely done, now faces her father's full wrath and punishment. It is interesting how the King of France reflects on what he has seen just before Cordelia makes this speech in Act I scene 1:
This is most strange,
That she whom even but now was your best objhect,
The argument of your praise, balm of your age,
The best, the dearest, should in this trice of time
Commit a thing so monstrous to dismantle
So many folds of favour.
Having enjoyed the position of favourite daughter, her unwillingness to flatter her father's vanity now makes her the least favourite daughter. In the speech that Cordelia makes, she draws a clear comparison between herself and her sisters, and their "glib and oily art/To speak and purpose not" (to speak but not to do it) and her own actions that come before her speech. She asks her father to make it known that she has lost her favour not through any sin or crime, such as "murder" or "unchaste action" so that her name may remain clear. She remains defiant in being glad that she does not have a "Still-soliciting eye" and a flattering tongue, even though that means she lost her father's favour.
One can't help but be impressed by Cordelia's character. She remains true to herself and what she believes is right, and her speech shows the danger of trusting in words alone and not in actions--a danger that Lear himself will realise later on.
Join to answer this question
Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.Join eNotes