What does the fool mean by "She will taste as like this as a crab does to a crab. Thou canst tell why one’s nose stands i' th' middle on ’s face?"She will taste as like this as a crab does to a...

What does the fool mean by "She will taste as like this as a crab does to a crab. Thou canst tell why one’s nose stands i' th' middle on ’s face?"

She will taste as like this as a crab does to a crab. Thou canst tell why one’s nose stands i' th' middle on ’s face?

Asked on by lovekblue

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kplhardison's profile pic

Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted on

Lear is negotiating his accommodations with his daughters and it is not going well. The Fool taunts Lear by saying that Regan will be kind where Goneril was not:

Shalt see thy other daughter will use thee kindly;
for though she's as like this [kindliness] as a crab's like an
apple

He then reverses his message and says what Regan will be like as opposed to what she will not be like:

She will taste as like this [Goneril] as a crab does to a
crab.

The following riddle is a lead in to his next jibe at Lear's senseless choices:

Thou canst tell why one's nose stands i'
the middle on's face?
[...]Why ... that
what a man cannot smell out, he may spy into.

In other words, Lear is being jeered for not knowing the truth about his daughters: he should see the truth or at least smell out foul deeds in the wind.

 

literaturenerd's profile pic

literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I have to agree that the fool is warning Lear. He is making a point of showing Lear that some things are exactly as they seem (instead of how they appear). Many of Shakespeare's plays were full of conflicts between appearance and reality. The fool is trying to point out how he feels about Lear's daughters and Lear himself.

accessteacher's profile pic

accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

This is an excellent example of the way that the Fool uses his status as a fool, as one who speaks nonsense, to actually speak truth in the guise of nonsense to his master, Lear. The Fool is actually, ironically, one of the wisest characters in the play, as he sees through the role of devoted daughters that Regan and Goneril play and identifies them for the treacherous individuals that they are. This speech therefore reflects this reality as the Fool tries to warn Lear.

vangoghfan's profile pic

vangoghfan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

The comments above about crabs and apples are correct, so I'll try to have a go at the rest of the phrasing you asked about.  Interestingly, none of the three major editions of the play -- Arden, Oxford, and Cambridge -- says much of anything about the comment on the nose.  Here's the phrasing:

  • Fool. She'll taste as like this as a crab does to a crab. Thou 
    canst tell why one's nose stands i' th' middle on's face?
  • Lear. No.
  • Fool. Why, to keep one's eyes of either side's nose, that what a 
    man cannot smell out, 'a may spy into.

The fool seems to be implying that something figuratively "smells" about the conduct of Goneril and Regan, but that if Lear cannot "smell out" their treachery, his eyes at least give him the chance to "spy into" it. Lear, however, is distracted by guilty thoughts about  Cordelia ("I did her wrong") and doesn't reply to the fool.

 

 

litteacher8's profile pic

litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Basically, the fool does not trust either daughter. He thinks that both Regan and Goneril are up to no good, and out to take advantage of Lear. The fool is trying to cleverly point out what he feels about the girls and the king's plan, basically saying that both are the same (both are crabapples).
pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

In this scene, the fool is telling Lear that he is making a mistake trusting Regan and Goneril.  The part about crabs refers to crab apples and it means that they will both taste the same, like crabapples.  He is saying that they are both sour people.  The part about the nose is not understandable unless you read the rest of the scene.  The fool says a bunch of silly things that lead to the idea that a snail is smarter than Lear because it carries its house on its back and can't give it away.

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