Close Reading

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Close reading

Embedded audio files; Specific and wider effects of language use (micro/macro).

Act IV, scene ii

ALBANY Wisdom and goodness to the vile seem vile:
Filths savour but themselves. What have you done?
Tigers, not daughters, what have you perform’d?
A father, and a gracious aged man,
Whose reverence even the head-lugg’d bear would lick,
Most barbarous, most degenerate! have you madded.
Could my good brother suffer you to do it?
A man, a prince, by him so benefited!
If that the heavens do not their visible spirits
Send quickly down to tame these vile offences,
It will come,
Humanity must perforce prey on itself,
Like monsters of the deep.
GONERIL Milk-liver’d man!
That bear’st a cheek for blows, a head for wrongs;
Who hast not in thy brows an eye discerning
Thine honour from thy suffering; that not know’st
Fools do those villains pity who are punish’d
Ere they have done their mischief. Where’s thy drum?
France spreads his banners in our noiseless land;
With plumed helm thy slayer begins threats;
Whiles thou, a moral fool, sit’st still, and criest
‘Alack, why does he so?’

Act I scene i

KING OF FRANCE Bid farewell to your sisters.

CORDELIA The jewels of our father, with wash'd eyes
Cordelia leaves you: I know you what you are;
And like a sister am most loath to call
Your faults as they are named. Love well our father:
To your professed bosoms I commit him
But yet, alas, stood I within his grace,
I would prefer him to a better place.
So, farewell to you both.

REGAN Prescribe not us our duties.

GONERIL Let your study
Be to content your lord, who hath received you
At fortune's alms. You have obedience scanted,
And well are worth the want that you have wanted.

CORDELIA Time shall unfold what plaited cunning hides:
Who cover faults, at last shame them derides.
Well may you prosper!

KING OF FRANCE Come, my fair Cordelia.


GONERIL Sister, it is not a little I have to say of what most nearly appertains to us both. I think our father will hence to-night.

REGAN That's most certain, and with you; next month with us.

GONERIL You see how full of changes his age is; the observation we have made of it hath not been little: he always loved our sister most; and with what poor judgment he hath now cast her off appears too grossly.

REGAN 'Tis the infirmity of his age: yet he hath ever but slenderly known himself.

  1. How does the passage add to our understanding of the character of:
  • Cordelia
  • Goneril
  • Regan
  1. Comment on Shakespeare’s use of rhyme in this passage.
  2. Comment on Shakespeare’s use of syntax (word order) in this passage.
  3. Comment on Shakespeare’s use of metonymy.
  4. How do the underlined words relate to other areas of the play?
  • “with wash’d eyes”
  • “professed”
  • “fortune’s alms”
  • “plaited cunning”

Essay Question: Using close analysis of the extract, discuss how fully it reflects the contrasts between Cordelia, Goneril and Regan.