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Lear: Act One Scene One

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King Lear’s first scene is notable in its length and structure. At over 300 lines, with more characters on stage than in all but the last scene of the play, and being divided into three sub-scenes, this first scene is almost a play in itself.

It begins, as do so many of Shakespeare’s plays,
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You and Thee

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In Henry IV Part 1, in the exchange between Hotspur and Owen Glendower, about calling up devils from the vasty deep, Hotspur deliberately shifts from the word you to thee when he addresses Glendower. You was often used to convey respect while thee was used when speaking to someone of inferior rank,
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Demons & Madness

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Passages with obscure references send scholars on treasure hunts in search of the influences on Shakespeare’s works. In King Lear, Act 3 Scene 6, one such hunt starts with the question, “Who were Frateretto and Hoppedance, or Purr the cat for that matter?” Turns out that in 1603, Samuel Harsnett, the Vicar of Chigwell, wrote a short tract titled, A Declaration of Egregious Popish Impostures,
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Frateretto calls me and tells me Nero is an angler

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Frateretto calls me and tells me Nero is an
angler in the lake of darkness. Pray, innocent, and
beware the foul fiend.
Prithee, nuncle, tell me whether a madman be a
gentleman or a yeoman.
A king, a king!
No, he’s a yeoman that has a gentleman to his
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Act 3
Scene 6
Line 6

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Demons & Madness