The play starts with a foolish decision from King Lear. He announces that he will retire by sharing his kingdom with his three daughters proportionally to how much they proclaim their love towards him. Following Lear’s request, the oldest daughter starts her speech and covers her father with flattery.
GONERIL: Sir, I love you more than word can wield the matter,
Dearer than eyesight, space, and liberty,
Beyond what can be valued, rich or rare,
No less than life, with grace, health, beauty, honor;
As much as child e’er loved, or father found;
A love that makes breath poor, and speech unable.
Beyond all manner of so much I love you.
The second daughter, Regan, gives another sentimental and flowery speech about how much she loves her father. This leaves the youngest daughter, Cordelia, with the unwillingness to make a spectacle out of herself.
CORDELIA: What shall Cordelia speak? Love, and be silent.
When asked to speak, Cordelia remains silent towards her father. Lear insists that she must speak and Cordelia responds.
CORDELIA: Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave
My heart into my mouth. I love your Majesty
According to my bond, no more nor less.
Cordelia loves her father honestly, without exaggeration. But Lear cannot accept such a quiet and simple statement. He enters in a rage, disinherits Cordelia and declares to her:
LEAR: Better thou
Hadst not been born than not t’ have pleased me