Read King Lear‘s ‘Unhappy That Am I, I Cannot Heave’ monologue below with a modern English translation and analysis, with a performance.

Spoken by Cordelia, Act 1, Scene 1

Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave
My heart into my mouth. I love your Majesty
According to my bond; no more nor less.
Good my lord,
You have begot me, bred me, lov’d me; I
Return those duties back as are right fit,
Obey you, love you, and most honour you.
Why have my sisters husbands, if they say
They love you all? Haply, when I shall wed,
That lord whose hand must take my plight shall carry
Half my love with him, half my care and duty.
Sure I shall never marry like my sisters,
To love my father all.

‘Unhappy That Am I, I Cannot Heave’ Monologue Translation

Unhappy as I am, I can’t express in words the things that are in my heart. I love your Majesty according to my duty as a daughter. No more, no less. My dear lord, you have conceived me, brought me up and loved me. I return those duties accordingly – obey you, love you, and honour you entirely. Why do my sisters have husbands if they say they love you exclusively? If it happens that I should marry, that man who has my hand in marriage will have half my love, half my care and duty. Certainly, I’ll never marry like my sisters to love my father totally.

Watch ‘Unhappy That Am I, I Cannot Heave’ Monologue Performed

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Cordelia, speaking

Florence Pugh as Cordelia, speaking “Unhappy that am I” monologue


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