Cordelia’s Portion


So was that to be her portion, then, fair Sister whom our Father loved best? Ah, for her own good it was, so say I, Goneril, and who would know best? A doddering old fool driven mad by years and the entitlements of his sex and station? Or I, Cordelia’s sister, who knew her from birth? From birth have I cared for fair Cordelia.

Aye, better it was, say I, that Cordelia was to leave the bosom of that fool and enter in other protections. Know I not the myriad weaknesses of the male gender? I, who am eldest, and whose husband is a retch and a tremulous child? I tell you now, I nurtured three children in my life though no babes have I, and they were my father, my husband, and fair Cordelia.

Think not that I never loved my sister. Who could fail to love one so sweet and lovely as fair Cordelia? No sin was hers, and that her greatest failing: for in her innocence there is no armor, no weapon, no structure to protect the delicate bud within from dismal weather and chewing insects. It was right and well she be sent away, for this is the world of dagger and poison, not for perfect beings as fair Cordelia.

Foolishness was her second greatest failing, but who could blame a sculpture carved from flimsy rock? That failing was my fathers, washed clean of me by my sainted mother’s blood, but not so for Cordelia. She, for whom my mother traded breath, she was ever cursed by being much too like him, while unlike him in his entirety. For my father is an idiot who loves himself, and my sister an idiot who loves virtue. Alas, fair Cordelia!

She is better in France, for France is soft and weak, like her, and coddled by temperate wind and weather. May she know the pleasures of life there! May she grow fat and redolent in royal motherhood, may she grow rich and spoiled like a Yuletide goose. All this and more I pray for thee, my sister, my fair Cordelia.

Shall I miss the fair Cordelia? A thousand times, yes, I shall miss her, light of the court, balm of my life as she was the balm of my father’s age. It is better she is gone where she can no longer get in my way. It would kill my heart to strike down my good sister, the only one I can claim to care for in this miserable collection I call family and court. God, have mercy on me, for I only love the fair Cordelia.

Can I claim to love my father? Nay, for he is King and Patriarch, Squanderer, Tyrant, and from the marrow of my bones do I loathe him. Can I claim to love my sister, Regan? Nay, for she nothing but a mirror that reflects anything put before her, possessed of nothing, worth nothing. Can I claim to love my husband, the tepid duke of Albany? Nay, nay, nay, for he is all Cordelia’s weakness with no excuse in her gender and her sheltered upbringing, a waste of flesh and a waste of unfruitful semen. All my love, I dedicate to fair Cordelia!

But think not that I would not strike her, for if her angelic lot is Heaven, then mine is Earth, and I know she would not fault me for doing what is needed to secure my lot. Would I fault myself? Oh, aye, a thousand deaths would it be to kill my sweet Cordelia, but I would take in my hand the foulest poison and pour it down her open throat myself if need be. I would take the deadly knife and plunge it, manlike, into her white and loving bosom until it were a wreck of blood and wounds, alas, I would slay my sister and my own heart at once. And I know that though I would die to do this, that there would be no hatred, only understanding, from the fair Cordelia.

So this is to be her portion, my sister, the beloved daughter not of my body but my soul: exiled by the fool who sired us, but to kinder pastures. May we never meet again, oh my sister, my soft-hearted puppy, my bird who sings not sweet but true, who need never dirty her tongue with lies and flattery as I have in pursuit of mine own portion. Godspeed thee, fair Cordelia.

May he be fit and fair, your royal husband the King of France. May he be wise and watchful, may your loins be fruitful as my husband’s are not. May you ever handle wine and brandy as I must handle poison and pen. May you think not of dismal England and its viper courts, may you think not of the creature I needs must be to gain my own portion. May you think of our father no longer, for although you love him, he loves nothing save his own ego. May you be free from us, free forevermore, fair Cordelia.

But now my husband is calling for me to join our lukewarm marriage bed oncemore, and I will think not of you, for heavenly things must not mingle with the filth of earth. Goodbye, my sister, my fool, my idiot. Think not of us, but only happiness.

Let peace and my love be your portion, my fair Cordelia.

via Daily Prompt: Portion

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