King Lear Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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Analyze Goneril and Regans first speech.

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Goneril's first speech shows hyperbole or exaggeration as she describes her love for her father. She says:

Sir, I do love you more than words can wield the matter,
Dearer than eyesight, space, and liberty,
Beyond what can be valued, rich or rare,
No less than life, with grace, health, beauty, honor,
As much as child e'er loved or father found—
A love that makes breath poor and speech unable.
Goneril says she loves Lear beyond anything else in the world and as much as any child ever loved a father. It is actually a particularly lame speech that deals in generalities and cliches, and she excuses it by saying her love for her father makes her unable to speak well.
Regan's first speech is even worse. She essentially says: "yeah, what Goneril says, me too," then adds her own hyperbole at the end, stating that her father's happiness is the most important thing in the world to her and she is opposed to anything that prevents it.
Sir, I am made of that self mettle as my sister,
And prize me at her worth. In my true heart,
I find she names my very deed of love—
Only she comes too short, that I profess
Myself an enemy to all other joys,
Which the most precious square of sense possesses.
And find I am alone felicitate
In your dear highness' love.
Shakespeare, as we know, was quite capable of putting eloquent speeches into his characters' mouths. It is telling, therefore, that he makes their speeches so dull. It shows they have nothing particular to say to show ways they might genuinely love their father. They never mention how they enjoyed when he did this or that for them as children (such as when Hamlet remembers Yorick giving him piggyback rides) or that they love some particular trait of his or deed he has done that has made them proud. It is all vague pronouncements and empty words. These lame speeches are the best they can do because they don't love their father at all or know him or care about him. They will simply say anything to get their grubby hands on his power.

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Stephen w eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In her speech, Goneril begins her speech by declaring her unconditional love for her father. She goes on to mention how her daddy's love and affection is incomparable to the most valuable of things—such as riches, eyesight, freedom, space, and rare gems. These comments show that Goneril believes that all actions performed by her father, whether good or bad, were done for the benefit of her and her sisters. Regan's first speech also contains the same sentiments for her father. However, she goes one step further and declares that her father gives her highest form of joy.

Although it's sweet how Goneril and Regan openly express their affection for their dad, it isn't normal because children often hold some form of hatred towards their parents. As a result, it makes both speeches seem suspicious.

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