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Free Study Guide-King Lear by William Shakespeare-Free Online Book Notes
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ACT III, SCENE 1

Summary

In this act, King Lear somewhat redeems himself. He faces the terrible fury of the storm with an inward fury, fueled by passion and rage. As he breaks down, he suffers intensely. The external tempest of nature's fury mingles with his inner one caused by filial betrayal. As he looks at the facts, he is forced to face his past mistakes and rashness and acknowledge his present impotence. The new insights into himself humble and subdue the king, giving him a genuine feeling of oneness with his fellow human beings. Stripped of his pomp and dignity, he realizes the similarities of man and beast.

The scene actually begins with a meeting between Kent and the Gentleman; they are both searching for Lear. The Gentleman states that the king is wandering about in Nature's fury; he is accompanied by the Fool, who is trying his best to keep the desolate king's spirits up. Kent changes the subject and talks about the disturbances that are now occurring since Lear has given away the kingdom to his daughters. He believes that there is a growing hostility between the Dukes of Albany and Cornwall. There is also a rumor that Cordelia and her husband, the French king, have landed in Britain in order to lead an invasion. Kent asks the Gentleman to travel to Dover to find out if there is truth to the rumor. He gives him a ring to give to Cordelia if she is in Dover; it will identify that the Gentleman is a messenger from Kent. The scene closes as the two men go forth to individually search for the king.


Notes

This scene, comprised of a conversation between Kent and Lear's Gentleman, describes how the King is out in the storm, "contending with the fretful elements." The Gentleman's description prepares the audience for the next scene in which Lear is seen being ravaged by the storm. The Gentleman hints that there is a threat to Lear's sanity as he "strives in his little world of man to outscorn /the to-and-fro conflicting wind and rain." At least the devoted Fool is with the King, trying to protect his master and improve his spirits.

Kent turns the conversation to the trouble that is brewing in England. He rails against the conspiracy hatched by Goneril, Regan, and their husbands and hopes that Cordelia may overcome them. The younger daughter has been kept abreast of what is happening to her father; she is fully aware of the horrid conduct of her sisters, Goneril and Regan. The fact that she has supposedly arrived in Britain with her husband is both good and bad news. The bad news is that she and the king have come to lead a French invasion of England; but there is also hope that she may rescue Lear and destroy the forces of evil that now reign in Britain.

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