"King Lear," Vocabulary from Act 5 20 words

While you are reading Shakespeare's tragedy "King Lear" (etext found here), learn this word list that focuses on love and death. Here are links to all of our lists for “King Lear”: Act 1, Act 2, Act 3, Act 4, and Act 5.
  1. reprove
    take to task
    The definition is for "reprove" as a verb but in the example sentence, "self-reproving" is a noun. Usually, a person reproves another for a misdeed or a fault. But at this moment, Albany is scolding himself because he is not sure what to do: sit quietly while a foreign force invades his kingdom? or side with Goneril (whom he now hates) and Edmund (a bastard) against Cordelia and France who are fighting for Lear (whom he loves and respects)?
    He's full of alteration
    And self-reproving:
  2. forfend
    prevent the occurrence of; prevent from happening
    The definition is for the modern meaning of "forfend" as a verb. But in the example sentence, "forfended" is an adjective with the archaic meaning of "forbidden". Regan is questioning Edmund about Goneril. The audience knows from an earlier scene that Edmund is lying when he denies being intimate with Goneril, but the word "forfended" is another clue, since forbidden fruit is often the tastiest.
    But have you never found my brother's way
    To the forfended place?
  3. miscarry
    be unsuccessful
    If you miscarry,
    Your business of the world hath so an end,
    And machination ceases.
  4. incur
    receive a specified treatment (abstract)
    We are not the first
    Who with best meaning have incurred the worst.
  5. devour
    destroy completely
    Lear is trying to encourage Cordelia to be strong here. But his use of the word "devour" doesn't help, because the reason that he gives for Cordelia not to cry is that time will devour the flesh of her eyes so she should not feed her eyes with tears. Because Lear and Cordelia have been captured, they don't have the power to starve Goneril and Regan (who can also be "them"), but they can fight against their own eyes.
    Wipe thine eyes.
    The good-years shall devour them, flesh and fell,
    Ere they shall make us weep.
  6. exalt
    praise, glorify, or honor
    Another definition of "exalt" is "raise in rank, character, or status"--which is what Regan (legitimate daughter and heir of a king, and widow of a duke) did to Edmund (bastard son of an earl) by giving him the powers of her position. To undermine Regan, Goneril argues that Edmund does not need Regan to exalt him because he is already gloriously worth praising.
    Not so hot.
    In his own grace he doth exalt himself
    More than in your addition.
  7. patrimony
    an inheritance coming by right of birth (especially by primogeniture)
    Take thou my soldiers, prisoners, patrimony.
    Dispose of them, of me; the walls is thine.
  8. capital
    of primary importance
    This definition doesn't actually fit the example sentence. Albany is using the adjective "capital" to describe treason as a crime that is "calling for the death penalty"--but for a crime to deserve that punishment, it must be seen as serious or of "primary importance".
    Edmund, I arrest thee
    On capital treason.
  9. heinous
    extremely wicked, deeply criminal
    If none appear to prove upon thy person
    Thy heinous, manifest, and many treasons,
    There is my pledge.
  10. canker
    an ulceration (especially of the lips or lining of the mouth)
    Another definition of "canker" is "a pernicious and malign influence that is hard to get rid of"--which can describe the effects of treason on Edgar. But the given definition is more fitting for the example sentence because Edgar is using images of teeth and biting to describe the reason for his lost name.
    Know my name is lost
    By treason's tooth bare-gnawn and canker-bit:
  11. adversary
    someone who offers opposition
    Yet am I noble as the adversary
    I come to cope.
  12. vanquish
    come out better in a competition, race, or conflict
    The definition is for "vanquish" as a verb, but "vanquished" is used as an adjective in the example sentence--this makes the meaning the opposite of what is given, since Goneril is arguing that Edmund was not conquered but cheated. This is a desperate attempt to restore honor to a fatally wounded Edmund who is lying at the feet of his opponent.
    By the law of war, thou wast not bound to answer
    An unknown opposite. Thou art not vanquish'd,
    but cozened and beguiled.
  13. cozen
    cheat or trick
    By the law of war, thou wast not bound to answer
    An unknown opposite. Thou art not vanquish'd,
    but cozened and beguiled.
  14. arraign
    call before a court to answer an indictment
    Say if I do; the laws are mine, not thine.
    Who can arraign me for't?
  15. dissolve
    lose control emotionally
    If there be more, more woeful, hold it in,
    For I am almost ready to dissolve,
    Hearing of this.
  16. puissant
    powerful
    His grief grew puissant and the strings of life
    Began to crack.
  17. reprieve
    postpone the punishment of a convicted criminal, such as an execution
    Send thy token of reprieve.
  18. redeem
    pay off (loans or promissory notes)
    She lives. If it be so,
    It is a chance which does redeem all sorrows
    That ever I have felt.
  19. trifle
    something of small importance
    This is Albany's response to the news that Edmund is dead. Compared to the reported deaths of Gloucester, Regan and Goneril, the visible dead body of Cordelia, and the impending deaths of Kent and Lear, Edmund's death is but a trifle.
    That's but a trifle here.
  20. vex
    disturb the peace of mind of; afflict with mental agitation or distress
    Vex not his ghost.