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A character study from Shakespeare's King Lear

The following essay is reprinted from Shakespeare Studies: Papers Read Before The Literary Clinic. F. Hyatt Smith. Buffalo: The Literary Clinic, 1916.

Cordelia--where is her counterpart? She unites the love of truth and the devotion to duty, woman's highest attributes. Faithful daughter and wife, too modest to proclaim her devotion, she will prove rather than profess. She begs her sisters to treat her father well, she sees their vileness yet calls no names; her's was a deep and unfathomable nature, of all Shakespeare's heroines she knew the least joy. Her character is too fine for words, her heart is a well of unsounded devotion, she could not envy or hate or blame, she appears in but a few scenes yet the result is ineffable and complete. She is governed by the loftiest of motives, she approaches the ideal, she must be known to be loved and loved to be known, she irradiates the blackness of the tragedy like the sunlight after a storm.

The subdued quietness and the veiled shyness over all her emotions make her something to be studied and admired and loved; her eloquence is solence, her voice is characteristic, ever soft, gentle and low, an excellent thin in woman. She surpasses Imogen in her sensibility and tenderness and fortitude and magnanimity, she has more strength than Katherine, she has more grandeur than Portia, she has more devotion than Hermione; the intensity of her feeling is concealed beneath the dignified calmness of her deportment.

Like Abdiel in the great epic, "among the faithless, faithful only he"; at the conclusion of the play she reappears a ministering angel, and passes from our sight a glorified saint. Only the Antigone of Sophocles is worthy of comparison with her.

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