Shakespeare Quotes

More sinned against than sinning

Lear:
Close pent-up guilts,
Rive your concealing continents, and cry
These dreadful summoners grace. I am a man
More sinn'd against than sinning.

King Lear Act 3, scene 2, 57–60

Thrown out of doors by his own daughters, the anguished Lear cries upon the storming heavens to execute justice, since he is now powerless to do so. Having ceded his authority, and been betrayed for it, the king comes to realize that he is but a "poor, infirm, weak, and despis'd old man" (line 20). As the storm beats down on his naked head, he invokes the "dreadful summoners"—the gods who tend to judgment and retribution—but hastily adds that he is himself "More sinn'd against than sinning." In this pathetic moment, Lear exemplifies in the extreme a possessive parent with ungrateful children, as he chalks up their transgressions on a cosmic balance sheet. The storm seems a manifestation of his fury, and—still clinging to the royal imperative—Lear commands it to strike where he, being weak, cannot.

Themes: guilt

Speakers: Lear