This paper aims to explore Shakespeare's language use and rhetorical strategies in King Lear as a way to understand his tragic art. It is assumed in this paper that Act 1 is the encapsulated version of the whole play foreshadowing Shakespeare's tragic orchestration and the development of the entire play. A close reading of Act 1 is therefore necessary to grasp the essence of the whole play. To begin with, Shakespeare's pragmatic change or retention of the prerogative titles and names of the characters is an issue worth discussing. His assignment and re-assignment of the lines to different characters and his adoption of the added Gloucester plot are also pointers of his pragmatic concern and tragic art. The pivotal event of the tragedy, the love test, is so arranged that all languages used in the dialogue between characters are devoid of performative functions and become thus mostly rhetorical. The Cooperative Principle of language so important to carry on a meaningful conversation, according to H. P. Grice (1975), is violated and the Politeness Principle of Geoffrey Leech (1983) is also flouted. That is, some of the pragmatic principles of the everyday language—Grice's Maxims of Quantity (informativeness), Quality (truthfulness), Relation (relevance), and Manner (clarity) and the Leechean rule of polite conversation, his postulated maxims to explain observed language behavior—are radically aborted. As a result, the love test game is a harbinger of the total collapse of mutual trust and interdependence; the link between utterances and what is understood from them is, for the most part, lost. An effective communication is thus impossible. Tragedy ensues as a matter of their failed language performance: the enmity between king and princess, the estrangement of father and daughter, the desertion of the elderly father, and eventually the death of father and daughters.