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This is one of three paintings by Ford Madox Brown illustrating Shakespeare’s play King Lear. This scene shows Lear with his youngest daughter, Cordelia, on the right. Lear’s doctor orders the musicians to play more loudly and awaken him. But Cordelia is anxious that her ailing father should sleep and she speaks the lament inscribed on the painting’s frame. In the play Lear divides his kingdom between his other two daughters and their husbands. But, after a painful period of self-discovery, he realises that Cordelia is his only true loving child.

July 2007