Thursday 30 September 2021

Cordelia does Selection Criteria: a cautionary tale for CEOs and recruiters


The Cordelia Variant

of the syndrome currently known as "Autism"

Cordelia's Portion (Ford Maddox Brown)


King Lear, aging ruler of Britain intends on retiring and wishes to divide his kingdom between his three daughters, Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia

But to win the greatest share, they must meet such selection criteria as he devises

Being an absolute ruler whose power has clearly stupefied him absolutely, he reckons one criterion is all he needs, to wit,  “Which of my daughters loves me the most?”

He makes a Very Baaaaaaaaaad Choice

Spoiler Alert!

In the end, everybody dies 😥

By the end of this exercise, you will have learnt:

  • King Lear’s Cordelia is possibly the first Autie in English literature
  • If you frame your selection criteria to invite flattery and self-promotion,  you may find you got the wrong person for the job.
  • And by the time they've successfully climbed over your head up the corporate ladder, you may be looking for a job yourself
  • Identify the characteristics of the Cordelia SyndromeVariantVirtuosity

Lesson Plan

  1. Do the required reading
    *You may apply for an exemption if you have Severe Acquired Shakespeare Intolerance due to early traumatic experiences with the Bard in high school
  2. Learn the to recognise the signs of Cordelia Virtuosity amongst your candidates
  3. Demonstrate your proficiency as a recruiter by intelligently discussing the set questions amongst your peers

Required reading

King Lear

Act 1. Scene 1
(Disclaimer: text accuracy honoured in the breach)

The Selection Criteria


Demonstrated fluency in declaring which daughter doth love us most

Candidate Responses


Sire, I love thee more than words can express; Dearer than eye-sight, space, and liberty; Beyond the rarest riches. No less than life itself, TBH, with grace, health, beauty, honour; As much as child e'er loved, that makes breath poor, and speech unable; blah blah etc etc


[Aside] OMG, how canst Regan and Cordelia toppeth this?


[Aside] OMG, what shall Cordelia do? Mine tongue bendeth not to flattery. Methinks will I best love and be silent


[Aside] Marry, craven Regan picketh up the gauntlet and runneth withal

So REGAN goes

#MeToo Sire! My sister hath taken the words right out of mine mouth only she falls way short. Trust me,  I alone bask in the sunshine of your dear highness' love


[Aside] Ah poor me! For want of that glib and oily art, I am undone!
Now must needs I step into this breach

Exeunt GDJ, leaving the rest to Shakespeare
overcome at the tragic lack of Neurodiversity Awareness
amongst Elizabethans

. . .


Now, our joy, Although the last, not least; what can you say to draw
A third more opulent than your sisters? Speak.


Nothing, my lord.






Nothing will come of nothing: speak again.


Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave
My heart into my mouth: I love your majesty 
According to my bond; nor more nor less

<... etc etc...>


So young, and so untender?


So young, my lord, and true.


Let it be so; thy truth, then, be thy dower:
For, by the sacred radiance of the sun,
The mysteries of Hecate, and the night;
By all the operation of the orbs
From whom we do exist, and cease to be;
Here I disclaim all my paternal care,
Propinquity and property of blood,
And as a stranger to my heart and me
Hold thee, from this, for ever.
E'en the barbarous Scythian,
Or he that makes his generation messes
To gorge his appetite, shall to my bosom
Be as well neighbour'd, pitied, and relieved,
As thou my sometime daughter.

FYI Lear full script here


The wicked sisters soon throw Lear out 
to wander mad on the icy blasted heath 

Too late doth he wake to his folly 
For alas, poor Cordelia, she is dead

King Lear weeping over Cordelia's body
Artist James Barry 1788

King Lear mourns Cordelia, then kills himself.
Everyone else is already dead anyway

What is the Cordelia Virtuosity?

From birth, Cordelians: 
  • find being deceptive mentally painful
    thus cannot lie, deceive, cheat or self-promote

  • find illogic mentally painful
    thus can't bear being illogical themselves, can't stand it in others

  • have no more "Theory of Minds (0ther than their 0wn)" than anyone else
    thus they have no "Theory of Deceptive Minds"
    and can naively end up being exploited by those who do

  • have not a skerrick of  malice or desire to hurt
    but their logical bluntness can be misunderstood

But let's not go overboard with a tendancy to the Rainbows and Sunshine School of Neurodiversity

Cordelians may be born Holy Innocents, but that does not make them "Inherently Saints". Allegiance to pure logic based on mistaken assumptions can also lead to extremism, conspiracist thinking and unfortunate allegiances aka "Sidekick Ayndrome"

Questions for discussion

  1. Would Cornelia have benefitted from Social Skills Training?

  2. When is masking a good idea? 

  3. What questions could King Lear have asked to determine who would make the best ruler for his country