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Free Study Guide-King Lear by William Shakespeare-Free Online Book Notes
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ACT III, SCENE 2

Summary

In the midst of a violent storm, Lear enters; he is accompanied by the Fool, who is shivering and terrified. Lear himself is "tempestuously" ecstatic. He exults in the power of nature and compares it to his daughters. Ironically, he now acknowledges himself as old, infirm, defenseless, and powerless. As he looks at the truth about himself, he begins to see "into the life of things" and feels, for the first time, a relationship with other human beings. As a result, he leaves self-pity behind.

The Fool stays close by the king, trying to cheer him with half- witted axioms. Kent enters, looks at the raving Lear, and bemoans the fate of the helpless, old king. He listens as Lear rambles on about humanity and its folly, self-deception, and false values. Kent tries to reason with the King and pleas with him to seek shelter. Lear, however, is not worried about himself; instead, he reveals a tender concern for the Fool. Finally, Kent persuades Lear to move in the direction a nearby hovel. The two of them exit the stage and Fool follows them shortly, delivering a prophecy.


Notes

Lear, pitted against nature in its most forceful form, gains a new insight into himself. He realizes how fully he has been tricked by his two older daughters and loudly bemoans their ingratitude and injustices. He then begins to rant and rave about the miserable condition of the world and invokes merciless nature to destroy evil. Fighting against the storm, he feels powerless, just as he feels powerless in the kingdom. Ironically, Lear appears to be less weak, defenseless and old in this storm as he has seemed in previous scenes. His anger has obviously animated him.

The Fool chatters on, underlining Lear's raging internal tempest and drawing the King's attention to his personal follies; therefore, the Fool actually aids Lear in his discovery of himself and his relative position in the world. The storm also heightens Lear's internal tempest. Throughout the entire scene, there is howling wind, relentless rain, claps of thunder, and bolts of lightning, all of which seem to excite Lear more. In the brief silence between two thunderbolts, he cries out loudly, "I am a man, more sinned against, than sinning." Although he admits that he has done wrong, he feels his punishment is more than he deserves. When Kent tries to make Lear seek shelter, he reveals that he is more concerned about the Fool than about himself. It is the first time that Lear has fully reached out with great concern to someone else. In the process he becomes less selfish and more humanized.

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