Shakespeare Quotes

Take physic, pomp

Lear:
Poor naked wretches, wheresoe'er you are,
That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm,
How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides,
Your loop'd and window'd raggedness, defend you
From seasons such as these? O, I have ta'en
Too little care of this! Take physic, pomp;
Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel,
That thou mayst shake the superflux to them,
And show the heavens more just.

King Lear Act 3, scene 4, 28–36

King Lear's "Take physic, pomp" means "pompous men, take a taste of your own medicine." The medicine ("physic") he has in mind is a bitter concoction: exposure to such storms as Lear himself now endures, having been thrown out by his ungrateful daughters [see MORE SINNED AGAINST THAN SINNING]. For the first time in his royal life, Lear experiences what it's like to be a poor, naked wretch, and the feeling is unpleasant. The king realizes that his former comforts (his "pomp") prevented his administering compassionately to the wretches of his realm—he has taken "Too little care of this." Only a dose of human suffering can establish the difference between what is necessary in life and what is mere indulgence. Thus enlightened, the rich and pompous "mayst shake the superflux to them"—shake off what is superfluous and distribute it to the needy.

Themes: regret, humility

Speakers: Lear