"King Lear," Vocabulary from Act 2 25 words

While you are reading Shakespeare's tragedy "King Lear" (etext found here), learn this Act 2 word list that focuses on direct and hidden insults. Here are links to all of our lists for “King Lear”: Act 1, Act 2, Act 3, Act 4, and Act 5.
  1. manifold
    many and varied; having many features or forms
    On the surface, Edmund is making himself look good to Gloucester by pretending that he had tried to convince Edgar not to kill their father. But Shakespeare's use of the word "manifold" can be seen as a hint to how Edmund has so many forms that he can't be trusted.
    But that I told him the revenging gods
    'Gainst parricides did all the thunder bend,
    Spoke, with how manifold and strong a bond
    The child was bound to the father
  2. dullard
    a person who is not very bright
    And thou must make a dullard of the world,
    If they not thought the profits of my death
    Were very pregnant and potential spirits
    To make thee seek it.
  3. riotous
    characterized by unrest or disorder or insubordination
    Was he not companion with the riotous knights
    That tended upon my father?
  4. knave
    a deceitful and unreliable scoundrel
    Note how Kent repeats "knave"--this makes the string of insults seem more comical, but it also shows how Kent, an earl who's often in the presence of other nobles, would not know many different insults.
    A knave; a rascal; an eater of broken meats; a
    base, proud, shallow, beggarly, three-suited,
    hundred-pound, filthy, worsted-stocking knave; a
    lily-livered, action-taking knave, a whoreson,
    glass-gazing, super-serviceable finical rogue;
    one-trunk-inheriting slave; one that wouldst be a
    bawd, in way of good service, and art nothing but
    the composition of a knave, beggar, coward, pander,
    and the son and heir of a mongrel bitch:
  5. base
    of low birth or station (`base' is archaic in this sense)
    Other definitions of "base" are: not genuine, illegitimate, and immoral. These definitions could also fit, but most of the insults in the example sentence focus on Oswald's low birth. In having Kent insult Oswald in this way, Shakespeare is also mocking Kent by showing that Kent is not doing a good job of pretending to be a servant.
    A knave; a rascal; an eater of broken meats; a
    base, proud, shallow, beggarly, three-suited,
    hundred-pound, filthy, worsted-stocking knave;
  6. rogue
    a deceitful and unreliable scoundrel
    a lily-livered, action-taking knave, a whoreson,
    glass-gazing, super-serviceable finical rogue;
  7. clamorous
    conspicuously and offensively loud; given to vehement outcry
    one that wouldst be a bawd, in way of good service,
    and art nothing but the composition of a knave, beggar, coward, pander,
    and the son and heir of a mongrel bitch:
    one whom I will beat into clamorous whining, if thou deniest
    the least syllable of thy addition.
  8. brazen
    face with defiance or impudence
    The definition is for "brazen" as a verb but the example sentence is using the word as part of a hyphenated adjective describing the noun "varlet" (which is a synonym for "knave").
    What a brazen-faced varlet art thou, to deny thou
    knowest me!
  9. disclaim
    renounce a legal claim or title to
    The word "nature" should be capitalized since Kent is personifying it here by claiming that Oswald is such a horrible person that Mother Nature would disclaim having made him. Compare this to Lear's disclaiming of all paternal care for Cordelia in Act 1.
    You cowardly rascal, nature disclaims in thee:
    a tailor made thee.
  10. ruffian
    a cruel and brutal fellow
    This ancient ruffian, sir, whose life I have spared
    at suit of his gray beard, --
  11. renege
    fail to fulfill a promise or obligation
    Renege, affirm, and turn their halcyon beaks
    With every gale and vary of their masters,
    Knowing naught, like dogs, but following.
  12. visage
    the human face (`kisser' and `smiler' and `mug' are informal terms for `face' and `phiz' is British)
    A plague upon your epileptic visage!
  13. antipathy
    a feeling of intense dislike
    No contraries hold more antipathy
    Than I and such a knave.
  14. saucy
    improperly forward or bold
    This is some fellow
    Who, having been praised for bluntness, doth affect
    A saucy roughness, and constrains the garb
    Quite from his nature.
  15. verity
    conformity to reality or actuality
    On the surface, Kent appears to be sincerely saying great things about Cornwall, but he is taking the flattery so far that there is more mockery than verity in his words.
    Sir, in good sooth, in sincere verity,
    Under the allowance of your great aspect,
    Whose influence, like the wreath of radiant fire
    On flickering Phoebus' front--
  16. malice
    the quality of threatening evil
    You shall do small respect, show too bold malice
    Against the grace and person of my master,
    Stocking his messenger.
  17. wretch
    performs some wicked deed
    The definition is for "wretch" as a verb but the example sentence uses it as a noun. A wretch can be someone you feel sorry for, and Gloucester does in the same scene say he feels sorry for Kent. But here, he is asking Cornwall not to punish Lear's servant as he would a common criminal, because that would be an insult to Lear.
    Your purposed low correction
    Is such as basest and contemned'st wretches
    For pilferings and most common trespasses
    Are punished with.
  18. naught
    a quantity of no importance
    Thy sister's naught:
  19. depraved
    deviating from what is considered moral or right or proper or good
    O Regan she hath tied
    Sharp-toothed unkindness, like a vulture, here.
    I can scarce speak to thee. Thou'lt not believe
    With how depraved a quality -- O Regan!
  20. unsightly
    unpleasant to look at
    Good sir, no more; these are unsightly tricks:
  21. scornful
    expressing extreme contempt
    You nimble lightnings, dart your blinding flames
    Into her scornful eyes!
  22. fickle
    marked by erratic changeableness in affections or attachments
    This is a slave whose easy-borrowed pride
    Dwells in the fickle grace of her he follows.
  23. indiscretion
    the trait of being injudicious
    "Indiscretion" can also mean "a petty misdeed" but Goneril is not accusing Lear of doing anything wrong. Instead, she is defending herself by saying that Lear lacks the ability to fairly judge her actions; she also insults him further with the word "dotage".
    All's not offence that indiscretion finds
    And dotage terms so.
  24. abjure
    formally reject or disavow a formerly held belief, usually under pressure
    Having given up his kingly powers, disowned Cordelia, and cursed Goneril, Lear does not have much left that he can reject. At the point of this example sentence, Lear thinks he can still rely on Regan, but upon discovering that she is even less welcoming than Goneril of him and his 100 knights, he is forced to carry out his proud threat to "abjure all roofs".
    No, rather I abjure all roofs, and choose
    To wage against the enmity of the air.
  25. chide
    censure severely or angrily
    Calling Goneril a "boil", "sore" and "carbuncle" IS chiding. This sentence shows how Lear is struggling between childish name-calling and patient dignity.
    Thou art a boil,
    A plague-sore or embossed carbuncle
    In my corrupted blood. But I'll not chide thee;