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Free Study Guide-King Lear by William Shakespeare-Free Online Book Notes
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ACT I, SCENE 5

Summary

Lear is on his way to Regan's castle at Gloucester, accompanied by the Fool. He has sent the disguised Kent ahead to announce his arrival. The Fool comments on Lear's pathetic condition, asking seemingly foolish questions that elicit a laugh from the King. But the bantering soon descends into self-reproach and despair as the King realizes that he may be mad. The Fool tries to calm the King's anxieties with comments that have a great deal of wisdom and common sense.


During the journey, Lear's thoughts wander back to the injustice he had done to Cordelia. When he states his profound regrets, the Fool aids him in his quest for self-realization. The Fool asks Lear, "Why a snail has a house?" The Fool answers himself by saying, "Why, to put his head in; not to give it away to his daughters, and leave his horns without a case." With wit, he reveals the absurdity of the King's actions in renouncing his authority without thinking of the unnaturalness of the act. He adds, "Thou should'st not have been old till thou hadst been wise." He then cautions Lear that Regan will probably not act any better than Goneril.

Notes

This scene describes Lear's tormented state of mind. He is accompanied only by the Fool and a Gentleman as he travels toward the castle of Regan. Having lost all power and wealth that he had as King, his mind is beset with regrets and a fear for the future. He begs to the Almighty, "O, let me not be mad, not mad, sweet Heaven!" As the Fool comments on Lear's strange behavior, his humor acts as a counterpoint to the King's state of mind. He particularly mocks Lear's foolishness in giving away his power to his daughters and expecting Regan to behave better than Goneril. The brief scene is filled with the Fool's humor in which is hidden a great deal of wisdom.

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Free Study Guide-King Lear by William Shakespeare-Free Online Synopsis
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