The Power of Cordelia's "Nothing" Love

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The Power of Cordelia's "Nothing" Love Cordelia is Lear's most loyal and loving child and yet she refuses to put on a display of affection and sentimental love before her father's court in order to make her father feel admired. The public display, wholly false, of affected feeling by her sisters Regan and Goneril is enough to ensure that Cordelia will keep quiet in word (which, as her sisters show, can be deceptive) and prove her love through action (which she does throughout the play). As far as words go, she simply tells her father that she loves him "according to my bond; no more nor less" (1.1). This should be sufficient for Lear because it is a statement of fact: Cordelia recognizes the duty she owes her father and is prepared to act accordingly. The same cannot be said for her sisters who attempt to prove their love through flattery. That Lear allows himself to be flattered by their empty words ill-prepares him to receive the meaningful and rich words of the terse Cordelia. By saying next to nothing, however, she says much more than the others. Lear, unfortunately, fails to grasp the fullness of Cordelia's "nothing." This paper will analyze the power of "nothing" in King Lear and show why Cordelia's response of "nothing" to her father is worth far more than the affectation of her sisters. The irony in Cordelia's "nothing" response to her father is that by saying nothing she says everything. Lear is correct when he replies "nothing will come of nothing," but he
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