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Thread: Stone the crows

  1. #1

    Stone the crows

    Greetings folks,

    I wonder if any kind person can help with a passage from King Lear (Act 5, scene 3):

    Howl, howl, howl, howl! O, you are men of stone. *
    Had I your tongues and eyes, I'ld use them so
    That heaven's vault should crack. She's gone for ever!
    I know when one is dead, and when one lives.
    She's dead as earth. Lend me a looking glass.
    If that her breath will mist* or stain the stone, **
    Why, then she lives.

    The "stone" in the first line* is clear, but not the second mention**. "stain the stone"? What stone?

    Thanks very much in advance for any help in the matter.

    best regards to all.

  2. #2
    Maybe YesNo's Avatar
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    Perhaps the looking glass was made out of some kind of stone? Just a guess.

  3. #3
    Translator Mohammad Ahmad's Avatar
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    We need to understand the context grammatically and semantically then we shall decide:
    That heaven's vault should crack. She's gone for ever!
    *(It means that heaven's vault cracks alarming the death of those in power ( the men of stone)
    I know when one is dead, and when one lives.
    She's dead as earth. Lend me a looking glass.
    If that her breath will mist* or stain the stone,
    Why, then she lives.
    Here is heaven vs. the wordily world
    She is dead as earth (i.e. the heaven was dead as earth)
    Earth refers to life (here the poet was frustrated on life)
    If that her breath will mist (this refers to heaven) or even will stain the stone (i.e. its breath either mists the atmosphere or stains the stone) it will die as earth has been dead.. Stone here refers to the strong things of life, which its end is the misting death, and those of power the Stony men will die when their stones (position of power) become just stained stones.
    Shakespeare almost used the pun on his style
    Looking into glass; Shakespeare here expected those kings end however they are stones whatever trying staining their shapes but their fate is inevitable
    Last edited by Mohammad Ahmad; 03-02-2016 at 03:05 AM.
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  4. #4
    Registered User mona amon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mike thomas View Post
    Greetings folks,

    I wonder if any kind person can help with a passage from King Lear (Act 5, scene 3):

    Howl, howl, howl, howl! O, you are men of stone. *
    Had I your tongues and eyes, I'ld use them so
    That heaven's vault should crack. She's gone for ever!
    I know when one is dead, and when one lives.
    She's dead as earth. Lend me a looking glass.
    If that her breath will mist* or stain the stone, **
    Why, then she lives.

    The "stone" in the first line* is clear, but not the second mention**. "stain the stone"? What stone?

    Thanks very much in advance for any help in the matter.

    best regards to all.
    Lear knows she's dead, but is deluding himself that there may be some hope, and asks for a mirror as the ultimate test. He calls the glass "stone" to be poetic, echoing the "stone" of the first line, and there is also the unsaid but suggested 'she is stone dead" of the fifth line. And it's not such a stretch - glass is cold, hard, brittle and so on.
    Last edited by mona amon; 03-03-2016 at 01:17 AM.
    Exit, pursued by a bear.

  5. #5
    Well thank you all very much for such good ideas: I think things are now a lot clearer:

    My best regards to all, and cheers for the good info

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