Great Words – Shakespeare’s King Lear

I’ve embarked upon reading Stephen Fry’s book The Ode Less Traveled to improve my creativity and sensitivity with words.Book

The book is terrifying with my low confidence, and I am slogging my way through. He audaciously asks the reader to write poetry! How awful!  In the spirit of Star Trek’s Dr. McCoy: Dammit, Jim! I’m a biologist, not a poet!

Through this book, I’m reading plenty of great poetry (surprisingly, mostly British), and want to share what I find meaningful with the….internet.  Mostly just collect it somewhere to easily access and share if necessary.

The inspiration for this collection comes from this quote, a speech by King Lear in the play…wait for it…King Lear.  Lear’s daughters seek to remove the help and the luxuries of his home on the basis of him not needing it, and the King vehemently objects:

O, reason not the need! Our basest beggars
Are in the poorest thing superfluous.
Allow not nature more than nature needs,
Man’s life is cheap as beast’s. Thou art a lady:
If only to go warm were gorgeous,
Why, nature needs not what thou gorgeous wear’st
Which scarcely keeps thee warm. But, for true need-
You heavens, give me that patience, patience I need!
You see me here, you gods, a poor old man,
As full of grief as age; wretched in both.
If it be you that stirs these daughters’ hearts
Against their father, fool me not so much
To bear it tamely; touch me with noble anger,
And let not women’s weapons, water drops,
Stain my man’s cheeks! No, you unnatural hags!
I will have such revenges on you both
That all the world shall- I will do such things-
What they are yet, I know not; but they shall be
The terrors of the earth! You think I’ll weep.
No, I’ll not weep.
I have full cause of weeping, but this heart
Shall break into a hundred thousand flaws
Or ere I’ll weep. O fool, I shall go mad!

From Project Gutenberg’s King Lear:

“O, Reason not the need!”

That echos in my head, from the cadence to the meaning.  My science background has turned me into a consummate pragmatist, and in my new discipline, I’m doing my best to break out.  My mantra as I try to form an aesthetic appreciation of life is now “O, Reason not the need.” To me, it means “Why the hell not enjoy it?”


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