King Lear Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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The line "Nothing will come of nothing" is extremely significant. However, what is the meaning of this line (big picture)? Overall, what is the relationship between nothing and something in this play. The line above is an example often used yet I cannot find a good explanation for the meaning of it within the context of the whole play, not just the small scene where Lear tells Cordelia that her truth is not welcome. Thanks

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Jay Gilbert, Ph.D. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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To what the first educator said above, I would add that the motif of "nothing" recurs throughout this play, with the audience invited to ponder on what "nothing" means. Gloucester says to Edmund that "the quality of nothing hath not such need to hide itself," after Edmund says that he is reading "nothing." The exchange between them deliberately and structurally echoes that between Lear and Cordelia, and begs us to question whether Cordelia really had nothing to say, or if she simply chose to say nothing while concealing something deeper.

Later, we see Lear's original conversation with Cordelia echoed again in the exchange between Lear and his loyal Fool. The Fool asks if Lear can "make no use of nothing," to which Lear says, "nothing can be made out of nothing"—a very similar statement to his earlier "nothing will come of nothing." From this statement, we can interpret that Lear has not yet changed his mind nor recognized his own error. As in many of Shakespeare's plays, the fool in

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