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Free Study Guide-King Lear by William Shakespeare-Free Online Book Notes
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ACT IV, SCENE 3

Summary

At Dover, Kent learns from the Gentleman that the King of France has been called back to his own country, but French troops have arrived in England. The Gentleman also describes Cordelia's reactions to the letter Kent had written, telling of her father's miseries. Cordelia had wept upon reading about Lear's tragic plight. Her love shines brightly in the dark world of hatred and treachery. Kent is amazed that the kind Cordelia is really a sister to Goneril and Regan.

Kent informs the Gentleman that an insane Lear has arrived in Dover. Amidst his ranting and raving, he sometimes remembers that he has banished the kind Cordelia. Although he would love to see her, his "burning shame detains him from Cordelia." After his explanation, Kent sends the Gentleman to attend to the King. Kent himself will remain in hiding, for one "dear cause" yet remains undone.


Notes

This short scene is often excluded from the production of the play, judged to be unimportant. It does, however, present several important pieces of information. The French troops have arrived in England, but Cordelia's husband, the King of France, has been called home; without adequate leadership, it seems likely that the French army will be defeated. Additionally, the scene reveals that Lear has arrived in Dover in a state of near insanity. In his few lucid moments, he bemoans the fact that he has banished Cordelia and longs to see her even though he is too ashamed to face her. The emphasis on Cordelia in the scene seems to foreshadow that she will eventually take control of the situation and help her father.

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